East Texas Has an Opioid Problem, From Prescription

If you think that the drug abuse trend in the great state of Texas has anything to do with its closeness to the Mexican border, you are right. Texas shares a 1,254-mile border with Mexico, which is a big factor in the state's drug problem, especially with the illegal drug heroin.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Texas Drug Threat Assessment, this border area is widely used by the cartels to smuggle illicit substances to the United States. That’s because most of is open, including state parks and this makes it difficult to constantly be monitored by enforcement agencies.

Large quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and meth are trafficked to the country through the border. Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) research shows that the amount of drugs seized by officers in the state – most confiscated near or at the US-Mexico border – consistently surpasses that of any other region in the United States

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But despite the law enforcement effort, cartels still find creative ways of ferrying the drugs across the border, whether it’s through roads, air, rail, water, or underground tunnels. And while smuggling happens anywhere across the border, commercial smuggling is prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande River.

Prescription opioids in East Texas

Illicit substances aren’t the only drug problem in Texas. The seemingly safe prescription medicines are also frequently abused and can cause serious issues, like overdose and death. In 2018, there were 14,975 deaths involving prescription opioids in Texas, according to the National Institute on Drug Use. Although the national prescription opioid-involved death rates decreased by nearly 7% from 2018 to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that more than 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved opioids.

Prescription drugs produce feelings of calmness and euphoria when taken in large doses. And while they aren’t meant to be taken this way, people may become tolerant over time and begin taking larger doses to feel the effect. This is part of the reason Texas law limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain to 10 days – with no refills allowed. A separate law also mandates physicians to check a state database to track whether patients with moderate to severe pain have already gotten the drugs elsewhere.

The regional needs assessment showed that the lifetime use rates for codeine syrup, Adderall, and benzodiazepines in the south- and northeast Texas were 15.5%, 4.4%, and 4.1%, respectively. Additionally, there were 7 prescriptions per 10 people in northeast Texas compared to 5.2 per 10 people statewide, according to the assessment.

Examples of commonly abused prescription drugs in East Texas include:

Misuse of prescription medicines is widespread, especially among adults and teens. Xanax is particularly prevalent for teens. Houston, which lies in Southeast Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston, is a source city for bulk quantities of pain medicines. Most of the supply comes from diverse activities at Houston’s many illegal pill mills, organized pharmacy theft, and prescription fraud.

Counterfeit pill production

The rise of counterfeit pill production makes the prescription drug situation even worse. Fake Xanax and hydrocodone pills containing fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are increasingly being seized. These impure drugs can have severe side effects and lead to overdose and death in worse cases. In fact, reports show that misused opioids accounted for more deaths than any other drugs save for cocaine.

According to the DEA, fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills remain a leading cause of overdose deaths in East Texas and across the country. As cheap, potent fentanyl infiltrates the heroin markets, the drug will augment and supplant white powder heroin in different markets.

Texas is in the top five states for a total number of opioid-related deaths. It also has the second-highest opioid abuse-related health care costs, amounting to over $1.9 billion, according to the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s overview. Hundreds of people die of overdose every day, and deaths involving schedule II drugs have outpaced those of heroin and cocaine combined since 2002. The crisis has led several East Texas counties, like Upshur, Titus, and Bowie, to hold drug manufacturers like Pfizer Inc., Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson responsible for the economic burden of opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction

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Opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and pain medications are highly addictive because they activate powerful reward centers in the brain. These drugs activate opioid receptors on cells situated in many areas of the spinal cord, brain, and other body organs, particularly those involved in feelings of pleasure and pain. When they attach to these receptors, they block pain signals and flood the body with dopamine. This effect can reinforce the act of using the drug, making one want to repeat the experience.

Long-term use of opioids can cause some people to develop tolerance. In this case, they’ll need higher and more frequent doses to achieve the desired effect. But this causes neurons to adapt so that they only work normally when the drug is present. The absence of the drug causes withdrawal symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. At this point, one is likely to rely on the drug to keep these symptoms at bay.

Treating opioid addiction

Chronic pain patients who develop opioid addiction need medical support to quit using the drugs. There are many inpatient and outpatient facilities in Trinity, Newton, Polk, Port Arthur, Tyler, Texas, etc., dedicated to treating people with addiction. Other programs, like the Deep East Texas Opioid Response Program, can also help with addiction care. Many of these programs use medications like buprenorphine or methadone to help individuals get off of opioids. In cases of opioid overdose, patients are given Naltrexone to flush out receptors to reverse the overdose.

Take advantage of the many resources available in the region to ensure you or your loved one is free from opioid addiction. The East Texas Council on Addiction and Drug Abuse is one such resource that acts as the first step for those seeking help. But you can also contact us today to learn how we can help you get off drugs and lead a clean, healthy life.

How Mexican Drug Cartels Affect Texas

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration reports, Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the majority of drugs smuggled into the country. The far-reaching influence of these well-organized crime groups that ascertain their dominance through fear and violence continues to be astounding.

While Mexican cartels have major influence across the country, the most affected state has been Texas.

Why is Texas a prime spot for drug trafficking?

Texas has for decades been a hot spot for most Mexican drug cartels as the state shares 1254 miles of border with Mexico. This has been made worse as most of the state, especially the South Texas HIDTA region, primarily consists of thousands of acres of unoccupied land.

The presence of the Gulf of Mexico further escalates the problem as the huge water body enables drug traffickers to use small boats, narco submarines, and pleasure crafts for their illegal trade.

What about the border fence and patrols?

Is it possible to have a United States-Mexico border that covers every inch between these countries?

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Well, that is a question that still demands a lot of research and billions of dollars in investment. Texas has particularly proven to be extremely challenging to fence as it has huge stretches of land that do not have physical barriers.

The flat desert areas and floodplains also present another challenge, making an end-to-end border fence an idea whose implementation depends on many geographical, economic, and legal aspects. However, recently in a bold move, Texas Governor Greg Abbott unveiled border wall plans as a part of his security action to keep Texans and Americans safer.

On a brighter side, part of the border fence built in strategic areas has helped Border Patrol and law enforcement increase surveillance and capture hundreds of cartel members. But, this has not deterred Mexican drug cartels from coming up with new ways of drug trafficking that allow them to move around, under, or through these barriers.

The growing impacts of drug trade on Texas

The Mexican drug cartel has proven to be the mythical hydra that replaces each head cut by two others. In 2014, after the capture of Joaquin Guzman, popularly known as El Chapo, who was a high-ranking leader of the Sinaloa cartel, it was expected that drug activities would sharply decline.

However, it seems that capturing drug lords is not a long-term solution to breaking down the empires worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With access to so much money, it is always a matter of time before new leaders emerge or new groups are formed.

For example, after El Chapo was extradited to the USA and his cartel operations were greatly affected by the arrests of many cartel members; breakaway members formed a new group. This group is the Jalisco New Generation Cartel that has rapidly grown and is currently attributed to more than 30% of the drugs in the United States.

Since Texas is the epicenter of drug trafficking to the USA, it has not been spared from the wrath of this illegal trade. Law enforcement is now paying more attention to the impacts of Mexican cartels operation in Texas as it is a problem that can no longer be ignored.

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The major and pressing problems linked to the influence and operations of Mexican cartels in Texas are:

One of the biggest concerns today is how Mexican drug cartel members use young people, especially teenagers, for drug trafficking. After crossing the Mexican border, these cartels need a way to ensure the passage of drugs discreetly. The perfect bait has been found, and these are young and innocent children who are given an opportunity to make easy money.

It is heartbreaking that teenagers as young as 12 have pleaded guilty to helping cartel members to smuggle drugs, like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States. This trend is expected to grow as cartels are now targeting young people using social media, making it harder to control the number of smugglers who could be recruited.

One of the long-term impacts of the drug trade is that it leads to a rise in human and sex trafficking. Texas has not been spared from these illegal activities as Mexican cartels are busy moving people and drugs into the country.

Border communities have been most affected by these activities as they often come face to face with the violent and daring gatekeepers facilitating cross-border smuggling.

There is never a peaceful drug trade as each cartel always aims for supremacy on valuable trade routes and markets. The drug war in Mexico is facilitated by the high number of weapons acquired from the United States and the many local gangs facilitating drug sales.

These local gangs have proven to be quite crafty as they now sell narcotics as prescription drugs or magic mushrooms. Unfortunately, this is a gaping hole that many young people have fallen into, leading to a severe public health pandemic. Yearly, the statistics worsen as more people overdose on these drugs and suffer from a heart attack while countless more become addicts.

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Every month millions of dollars are smuggled back into Mexico as proceeds from the drug trade. In turn, money launderers in Texas and across the nation have become an integral part of cartel operations as they ease money flow. This has become such a big concern as, on the one hand, it hurts the local economy, and on the other hand, it makes Mexican cartels stronger.

On a national level, this has necessitated the attorney general and U.S law enforcement agencies to collaborate with Mexico in the fight against drug cartels. However, despite the massive strides that have been made, especially in the seizure of laundered money and property, Mexican cartels still stick out like a sore thumb.

Stay safe in Texas

The overreaching impacts of the Mexican drug cartels in Texas call for great public awareness on the devastating impacts of drugs. At a personal level, it also mandates great self-control to avoid falling victim to the alluring lifestyle that cartels use to recruit more local members.

Luckily, you are not alone, as More Than Rehab is here to help you avoid becoming entrapped in substance abuse or aiding these cartels in drug smuggling or money laundering. In the end, the easy money and flashy lifestyle that cartels portray is short-lived and will cause more pain than good. If you are in immediate danger or need help, call 911. If you need a safe rehab to get clean, call us.

888-249-2191

How Chronic Pain Can Lead to Drug Abuse

Pain is a normal part of life. It is our body’s reaction to illness or injury – a warning that something is wrong. Usually, pain lessens as soon as the body recovers. The hurting stops and things go back to normal. But this doesn’t happen all the time. Not when it’s chronic pain.

Chronic pain is a persistent pain that’s ongoing and lasts longer than three months. It lingers on even after the illness or injury has gone away. Chronic pain can limit mobility and reduce strength, endurance, and flexibility. This may make it hard to get through daily activities and tasks.

Chronic pain may last for months or even years. It may feel dull or sharp, causing an aching or burning sensation in affected areas. The pain may be intermittent, steady, or on and off. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20.4% of adults in the US had chronic pain in 2019.

Currently, it’s the leading cause of long-term disability in the country, affecting about 100 million Americans. Studies show 1 in 4 people with chronic pain will develop chronic pain syndrome (CPS). This occurs when they experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression, on top of the pain.

Chronic pain symptoms

Chronic pain, like other long-term health issues, leads to complications beyond the physical symptoms. It causes depression, feelings of guilt, poor sleep, loss of interest in sex, suicidal thoughts, exhaustion, stress, and anxiety. The consistent pain makes it hard for one to manage tasks, keep up with work or attend a social gathering. This leads to problems with relationships and work. Some studies suggest that the severity of these issues is directly proportional to the pain.

How chronic pain leads to addiction:

Chronic pain intensifies mental health issues that cause addiction

Many studies show a strong link between chronic pain and mental health issues. In one of these studies 10-87% of chronic patients had depressive and anxiety symptoms. Personality disorders are also common among these types of patients. Chronic pain and mental health disorders are linked because they both share neural pathways, making it hard for the brain to distinguish them.

In addition, chronic pain has some profound social and behavioral effects that feed into a mental health condition. Prolonged chronic pain causes social isolation that intensifies issues like anxiety and depression. That’s where addiction comes in.

Experts are learning more and more about the strong link between mental health issues and addiction. According to NIDA, people who develop mental disorders are also diagnosed with substance use disorders. Another report by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that mental issues are responsible for the consumption of the following: 40% of cigarettes, 44% of cocaine, and 38% of alcohol.

Self-medication is by far the most common culprit behind most dual diagnoses. For example, a chronic pain patient with low energy takes crystal meth to increase their drive to get things done. Meth addiction can happen the first time it’s used. To make things worse, the drug can cause horrible side effects on the body. Meth mouth is one of the most common physical side effects of meth use.

Treatment involves prescription opioids that can be highly addictive

Prescription opioids are one of the common drugs that doctors prescribe for chronic pain issues. Since the early 1990s, doctors have been prescribing opioid painkillers like morphine, hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone for pain problems. These medicines manage pain well and can improve quality of life when used correctly. But unfortunately, anyone who uses opioids is at risk of developing an addiction.

Short-term use of opioid pain relievers rarely causes addiction. However, when a patient takes them for a long time (or incorrectly), they are likely to abuse the drug, develop tolerance and end up with addiction.

Opioids are highly addictive. They make the body and brain believe that the drug is necessary for survival. So the chronic pain patient will want to keep taking the medication. But as they develop a tolerance to the prescribed dose, they may find that they need even more medication to relieve the pain. This may lead to dependence.

This is why patients have to adhere to their doctor’s recommendations at all times. Opioids are not only addictive but also potentially life-threatening. On average, opioid overdoses account for 90 deaths in America every day.  According to WHO, 70% of drug use deaths are opioid-related – with over 30% of these deaths arising from an overdose.

Withdrawal symptoms cause patients to continue using drugs

Many chronic pain patients become dependent on prescription opioids to avoid pain. But when one takes the medication for a long time, they become tolerant. Over time, the body needs more drugs to achieve the same effect. Extended use alters the way neural pathways work in the brain. And these neurons start depending on the drug to function.

As a result, the patient becomes physically sick when they stop using opioid medication. So, they use more drugs to avoid pain and withdrawal symptoms.

Patients try out alternative drugs to relieve pain

Prescription opioids are hard to obtain. Some patients may opt for alternative drugs that are cheaper and easily accessible – like morphine and heroin. Research suggests that misuse of opioid pain medicines like Vicodin and OxyContin may open the door for heroin use.

According to NIH, about 4-6% of those who misuse opioid medicines switch to heroin. But a staggering 80% of those who use heroin, begin by misusing prescription opioids.

Managing chronic pain

Prescription opioids are often the last resort for chronic pain management among non-cancer patients. Most patients benefit from psychological treatments, exercises, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and NSAIDs. But in cases where opioid medications have to be prescribed, it is crucial that they work closely with their doctor to prevent it leading to drug abuse.

Patients who end up with drug use issues will benefit from addiction treatment. Treatment centers have qualified health care professionals who help address behavioral addictions.  The best ones adhere to the guidance of the American Society of Addiction Medicine when treating co-occurring addiction and chronic pain issues.

What is the Difference Between Norco, Heroin, and Fentanyl?

Drug and alcohol addiction is a very serious problem in our country today, even more so with the current pandemic that has struck the world. It is estimated that nearly 21 million Americans struggle with a substance abuse problem of some kind. The current Covid-19 pandemic has recently caused a lot of issues with substance use, including devastating impacts to sobriety and recovery for many people. However, what many may not know is that there is an epidemic that has been hitting our country pretty hard for several years and that is the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis, also known as the opioid epidemic, is in part to the overprescribing of addictive painkillers, like Norco that eventually lead to people buying drugs on the street, such as heroin, fentanyl, or even other prescription drugs. This is especially true if they are no longer able to obtain them through legal channels, like a prescription from their doctor.

Opioids are a class of drugs that are naturally found in the opium poppy plant and target the opioid receptors in the brain to produce effects very similar to morphine. Many opioid medications work by blocking pain signals to the brain. Even though there are many different opioids, Norcos, heroin, and fentanyl are some of the most popular substances that are commonly abused by people who suffer from an addiction or substance abuse problem. With so many different opioid drugs on the market, it is easy to be confused about the differences between them, so here is a brief explanation of Norcos, heroin, and fentanyl.

Norco prescription painkillers are very addictive

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Norco is a prescription painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain but can also become very addictive. Norcos are made with a combination of acetaminophen (over the counter pain reliever) and hydrocodone (a synthetic opioid). Like many opioid painkillers, this drug works by altering the perception of pain by targeting certain opioid receptors in the brain. Norcos are also very similar to another prescription painkiller known as Vicodin, the only difference between them is the ratio of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Both of these prescription painkillers are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and are considered a Schedule II drug.

The danger with Norco or Vicodin is the potential to become addictive if there is chronic or persistent pain involved. Over time, people are likely to develop a tolerance and physical dependence to the drug, needing to take more and more each time to feel the same effects. A lot of time this leads people to trying “harder” drugs in order to achieve the desired effects, or even to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms. Some common side effects of Norco are:

Heroin addiction can result from a dependence on prescription painkillers

Heroin is a highly dangerous and illicit substance. It is derived from morphine, which is made from the naturally occurring opioid poppy plant. Heroin can come in many different forms, the most common are in the form of white powder, brown powder, or a sticky black substance known as black tar heroin. The danger with heroin is that it is made illegally with no real way to test the strength of the product, unlike Norcos which come highly regulated. This has the potential to cause a lot more overdoses and a higher chance of addiction as most of the time the substance is a lot stronger than prescription painkillers.

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Some people eventually turn to abusing heroin after their dependence to painkillers has grown strong enough to the point where they need something else in order to feel the desired effect. Heroin is also classified as a schedule I drug, meaning that there is no valid medical purpose for the substance. A lot of times this drug is cut or mixed with other dangerous and cheaper chemicals in order to maximize profits and cut costs for the dealer. Some common side effects of heroin include:

The dangers of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful, dangerous, and highly addictive opioid painkiller. It is very similar to morphine but is estimated to be anywhere around 50-100 times stronger, making this one of the most powerful opioid substances on the market. The effects of fentanyl are activated at a much lower level than other opioids, making this an extreme danger to those who are not aware of its strength. When people use this drug nonmedically, they are at a very high risk of overdose because it can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Unfortunately, many dealers dilute their heroin with fentanyl in order to increase their drug’s potency and their own profits. This is because it takes very little to produce the same effects as other drugs. The problem with that is unsuspecting users may ingest more fentanyl than intended because they are not expecting to ingest this dangerous chemical. Dealers have even been known to use fentanyl in MDMA, cocaine, and methamphetamine, causing a lot of unfortunate and unintended overdoses that would not have happened if it weren't for fentanyl unknowingly being there. Some common side effects of this dangerous chemical are:

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All of these drugs listed above are very dangerous and addictive. They can all destroy your life if you let it. We know that there are times when you need to take painkillers, but that doesn't mean you have to end up addicted to the high for the rest of your life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with any sort of opioid addiction, or an addiction to any other drugs or alcohol, then we are here to help! We know how difficult that getting off of drugs can be, but your comfort is our main concern. We are medically-equipped to take care of all of your needs during and after detox. We want to help show you the way to a happy, healthy life without drugs or alcohol.

Call us today at More Than Rehab so we can start a personalized plan just for you:

888-249-2191