El Paso isn’t always the destination for illegal drug trafficking, but it’s so close to the border that citizens of the United States can easily drive across the border and just as easily come back with excessive amounts of drugs to distribute around the state of Texas.
Texas gets hit pretty hard with shipments of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, rupholine, ecstasy and marijuana—just to name a few. Addiction is a widespread issue, especially when drugs are as available as they are in Texas and other regions like Southern California. The problems that can occur with addiction are so much more than petty theft, prison time, mental health, family and financial problems.
Addiction In El Paso
El Paso has over twenty different addiction treatment facilities where people can begin their journey in recovery. Keep in mind that addiction is a “complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more now than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives” (NIDA).
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Not only do the adverse effects of drug addiction turn a good person into someone you can’t trust or depend upon, that same person will actually downplay their addiction and tell you that “it isn’t so bad.” Addiction can be a real heart breaker. Some warning signs of an addiction may include:
Physical warning signs of drug abuse
- Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
- Runny nose or sniffling
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
- Unusual odors on breath, body, or clothing
Behavioral warning signs of drug abuse
- Using causes difficulties in one’s relationships
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Frequently getting into legal trouble, including fights, accidents, illegal activities, and driving under the influence
- Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home, including neglecting one’s children
- Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
- Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal money.
- Using drugs under dangerous conditions (driving while using drugs, using dirty needles, having unprotected sex)
Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
- Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason
- Lack of motivation; appearing tired or “spaced out”
- Periods of unusual increased energy, nervousness, or instability
- Sudden mood swings, increased irritability, or angry outbursts
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude
Behavioral warning signs of drug addiction
- Increased drug tolerance (the need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects one used to achieve with smaller amounts)
- Using drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms (nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, anxiety)
- Loss of control over drug use (using more than intended, unable to stop)
- Life revolves around drug use (always thinking of using, figuring how to get more, or recovering from use)
- Abandoning enjoyable activities(hobbies, sports, and socializing) to use drugs
- Continuing to use regardless of negative consequences (blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia)
Why Is Substance Abuse A Trend In El Paso?
The Texas Department of Health Services stated that, “the severity of substance abuse-related problems in El Paso are in large part related to the drug trade that flourishes along our international border with Mexico. This illegal drug commerce influences the availability, variety, quality, and quantity of drugs in El Paso.”
Drug Trafficking In El Paso
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in September 2016, two members of a drug trafficking organization were caught in possession, “with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Each faces a statutory penalty of not less than 10 years or more than life in federal prison and a $10 million fine.” Unfortunately these organizations don’t always get caught and the capacity of drugs they’re bringing in is astounding.
What Is The Country Doing To Stop Drug Smuggling?
In 2009, “U.S. seizures of illegal drugs in transit exceeded 1,626 metric tons, indicating that DTOs succeed in moving several thousand tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin and MDMA into the United States annually. There are unique smuggling and transportation methods associated with each drug type, but overall, drug seizure data and law enforcement reporting indicate that overland smuggling and subsequent transportation by vehicle exceed all other methods combined”. –U.S. Department of Justice
Local law enforcement aren’t the only ones fighting drug trafficking and the Federal Bureau of Investigation states, “ From small street-level drug buys to major cases targeting the highest levels of cartel and gang leadership, our agents and law enforcement partners attack the problem from every angle to gain intelligence and to disrupt and dismantle trafficking organization.” The team went on to describe how drug trafficking can be a lucrative business for criminals.
So What Kind Of Drugs Are Being Smuggled Into Texas?
“‘Where you have gangs, you have drugs. And in El Paso, all the drugs are coming from across the border.’ A kilo of cocaine in El Paso costs about $20,000, but can be sold in Chicago, Atlanta, New York, or Miami for more than $30,000. There is a lot of money to be made”(FBI). So the drugs being brought onto U.S. soil vary, but we can be certain that they are all in it for the same thing—money. As previously stated, the drugs being smuggled in can include:
Heroin And Prescription Opioid Epidemic In Texas
There are several ways to use heroin; “people inject, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, called a speed-ball” (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Heroin addiction is categorized as a disease, and by definition, an epidemic is “an outbreak of a disease or illness that spreads rapidly among individuals in an area or population at the same time.” The problem with highly addictive opioids, there aren’t many people who can simply quit them cold turkey and further problems and crimes like theft, even homicide are common as a result of drugs.
“Mexican black tar heroin and Mexican brown powdered heroin are the predominant types available throughout the state; however, South American, Southeast Asian, and Southwest Asian heroin are available to varying extents. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control the transportation and wholesale distribution of Mexican black tar and brown powdered heroin” (NIDA).
Opioids can come in all shapes and sizes, other than heroin, and can refer to:
Health Consequences Of Heroin
Crime isn’t the only problem that can arise from heroin and overdose death is a very real possibility. In fact in Texas alone “Heroin overdose deaths have more than tripled… during the last 15 years.” Heroin can also lead to:
- Collapsed Veins
- Infection of the Heart Lining and Valves
- Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
- Constipation and Stomach Cramping
- Liver or Kidney Disease
- Lung complications, including various types of pneumonia
Heroin And Opioid Addiction And Treatment
Perhaps you are reading this for a friend, or perhaps you’re reading this for yourself; maybe wondering “how did it ever come to this?” Maybe you’re dope sick right now, or even ‘jonesing’ for more. Heroin addiction can be a difficult to understand. Well there is hope for recovery from heroin, but the truth of it is that heroin is a very mentally and physically addictive substance which can be extremely hard to quit cold-turkey. Those who do try to kick the habit on their own might be successful, but their brain is working against them.
Addiction is a disease, wherein a person suffers from the mental obsession and compulsion to use a drug; some people suffering from heroin addiction can’t think about much other than their drug of choice. Once addicted, some have little to no control over the amount of the drug they’re using. With heroin this can depend on the purity of the drug and what it’s cut with or laced with—most people don’t know what’s in it. Even if they do, they can still die of an overdose; because even getting a bad batch can kill. Unfortunately, there is no real way of knowing how a person might react to heroin.
Those who successfully manage to stay off of heroin and other opioids might be good for a couple days which is about time the withdrawals can kick in; often times the withdrawal from a drug is what brings people back to using. Those withdrawals can include a variety of different flu-like symptoms; they can also include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
Sometimes a medication-assisted therapy can be one of the best tools for treating an opioid addiction. This type of treatment isn’t simply taking a miracle pill and suddenly being cured—the medication mentioned is generally used to help a person more comfortably deal with the withdrawal symptoms from opioids. After a professionally administered detoxification, patients will be subject to dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, contingency management and support groups.
Health Consequences Of Cocaine
Like heroin, cocaine is a nasty drug to be addicted to and just as nasty to try to quit. Cocaine addiction can lead to serious financial problems, but not only that that it can even lead to overdose. This happens because, when your heart gets a huge dose of a stimulant, it can’t keep up and you can go into a cardiac arrest. People have died the first time using cocaine—not everyone’s body reacts the same way to drugs like coke. It can also lead to a number of health effects:
- Constricted Blood Vessels
- Dilated Pupils
- Raised Body Temperature
- High Blood Pressure
- Faster Heartbeat
- Tremors and Muscle Twitches
Cocaine Addiction And Treatment In El Paso
Cocaine isn’t any easier to avoid addiction than heroin and opioids. And it certainly isn’t an easier to avoid cocaine withdrawal either. It can also be just as dangerous as opioids. This is because cocaine is an addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant and the high from it is intense. Because it’s a stimulant, cocaine increases a person’s heart rate which can make them feel much stronger than they really are. According to the NIDA, the adverse effects of cocaine can include:
- Faster Heartbeat
- Extreme Happiness and Energy
- Severe bowel decay
- Higher risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood borne diseases
- Severe paranoia with auditory hallucinations
“While no government-approved medicines are currently available to treat cocaine addiction, researchers are testing some treatments” (NIDA). To date, some of the best treatments for cocaine include long-term inpatient treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management and support groups such as narcotics anonymous or cocaine anonymous. Sober living houses are also a good way to stay away from cocaine and other illicit substances.
Health Consequences Of Methamphetamine
From the National Drug Intelligence Center, “Methamphetamine is a significant drug threat to Texas. High purity, low cost methamphetamine is readily available, and the drug is widely abused, particularly in rural areas. Methamphetamine produced in Mexico is the predominant type available. Locally produced methamphetamine also is available and is becoming more prevalent.” Also known as crystal meth, methamphetamine is used all over the state of Texas and can lead to a variety of different mental health problems.
Some of the health problems from methamphetamine are:
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Deficits in thinking and motor skills
- Increased distractibility
- Memory loss
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Mood disturbances
- Severe dental problems
- Weight loss
- Psychosis, including:
- Repetitive motor activity
The psychosis can last for months, even years after a person stops using the drug. “Stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in formerly psychotic methamphetamine abusers” (NIDA).
Serious tooth decay is also common—the term has even been coined “meth-mouth.” There is also thing called “meth-mites;” unlike tooth decay, those are completely imaginary. Sometimes when a person has been using methamphetamine, they believe that there are microscopic bugs crawling underneath their skin and will pick at their face (which can consequently be covered in scabs).
Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment In El Paso
So how do you treat someone who might seem completely lost to a drug? With the intensity of a meth addiction, the treatment will be no less intensive. There are several effective ways to treat a meth addiction, and according to the NIDA, a few of those ways are:
“Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency-management interventions. For example, the Matrix Model, a 16-week comprehensive behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-Step support, drug testing, and encouragement for non-drug-related activities, has been shown to be effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.”
Treatment may also include contingency management wherein a patient will receive rewards for clean drug tests. To date, there have not been any successful medications to help with the withdrawals/detoxification from meth. However, a successful recovery will still start with a successful detoxification, but it’s important to remember that relapse is always a possibility—so detoxification is only the beginning and not the end all for an addiction.
Health Consequences Of Alcohol Abuse
One of the few legal drugs that continues to take lives, alcohol has been contributing to addiction and causing other health complications along the way. Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, kidney failure and brain damage. Those are just the problems related to health; alcohol can also lead to failed relationships, loss of employment, car accidents, time spent in jail and alcohol withdrawal. Because addiction is a disease of compulsion, the person suffering from alcoholism might not be able to stop drinking even when the previously stated consequences arise in their life.
Alcohol abuse implies that a person is misusing the substance—by the nature of drug abuse, getting drunk is considered abuse. Those who do quit drinking will very likely experience physical withdrawals. Alcoholic withdrawals can be dangerous if they aren’t monitored by a professional. Some of those withdrawals can include:
Common symptoms include:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Jumpiness or shakiness
- Mood swings
- Not thinking clearly
Other symptoms may include:
- Clammy skin
- Enlarged (dilated) pupils
- Insomnia (sleeping difficulty)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pallor (an unhealthy pale appearance)
- Rapid heart rate
- Tremor of the hands or other body parts
A severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens can cause:
- Seeing or feeling things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Severe confusion
Alcoholism is a progressive disease; meaning that it gets worse over time. A person who abuses alcohol won’t always develop an alcohol use disorder or become an alcoholic, but they are certainly at risk.
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Treating Alcohol Use Disorders And Alcoholism In El Paso
Alcoholism is a progressive disease, but what about an alcohol use disorder? “Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of ‘alcohol use disorder’ or AUD. Approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had an AUD in 2012. This includes 11.2 million men and 5.7 million women. Adolescents can be diagnosed with an AUD as well, and in 2012, an estimated 855,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had an AUD” (NIAAA).
So where does the treatment begin? Treatment for an alcohol addiction begins when a person wants to get well and admits that there is a problem. After that, very strict detoxification will be necessary for a person to stay off the drink. We say strict detoxification because “disease processes or events that accompany acute alcohol withdrawal can cause significant illness and death” (NIAAA). Like any other addiction treatment, detoxification is only the beginning—it’s the act of getting the substance out of one’s system and dealing with the withdrawals.
There are further steps to take towards a successful recovery beyond detox. Any treatment for an alcohol problem is better than no treatment, but an effective treatment program would include some or most of the following:
- Motivational Interviewing
- Family and Peer Support
- Inpatient Group Therapy
- Individual Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Relapse Prevention Class
- Mindfulness and Stress Management
- Healthy Living Class
- Support Group (like Alcoholics Anonymous)
- Treatment Follow-Up and Aftercare Support
Border Patrol In El Paso, Texas
From a 2014 article by Nomaan Merchant of The Washington Times, it is believed that this problem with drugs like heroin in Texas is partially because “drug smugglers use Texas’ 1,200-mile border with Mexico to transport heroin that ends up in cities and rural towns all over the state.” Texas is one of the first places to get hit with shipments of illegal drugs in the United States, and being so close to the border offers no aid to El Paso.
El Paso is right on the border of Mexico so it’s no wonder there are major issues with drug trafficking here. The drug trafficking feeds addiction and will continue to do so until it’s completely stopped. The border patrol and government does what they can to keep drugs out, but the people smuggling the drugs have gotten wiser in their ways. Major DTOs get caught from time to time, but it’s not enough. The DTOs certainly don’t care if you become addicted to drugs or alcohol—so they certainly aren’t going to point you in the right direction for recovery, or help you pay for rehab.
Paying For Rehab
So now that you’re considering treatment, you might have come to the realizations that it can cost a lot of money. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t made of money—we get that. Financing rehab isn’t exactly in everyone’s five-year investment plan. We’re here to tell you that there are other ways to pay for treatment than out-of-pocket. Some different options to help with the cost of rehab might include:
- Government Grants Or Scholorships
- Private Insurance
- Medicaid Accepted Coverage
- State Funding
- Free Or Low-Cost Rehab Programs
Vertava Health of Texas Holistic Addiction Treatment
There are always other options than going to rehab, but not all of them are good. “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain” (NIDA). At Vertava Health of Texas, we understand addiction, and we understand how to treat it.
With a nature-based escape and holistic approach to treatment, we can help you become free from addiction. At Vertava Health of Texas, we offer recreational, art and adventure therapy and more. If you’re suffering from an addiction and ready to be done with it, contact us today to ask about your treatment options.
- City of El Paso — Veteran Resources: Addiction
- Federal Bureau of Investigation — On the Southwest Border A Drug Buy in El Paso
- National Drug Intelligence Center — Texas Drug Threat Assessment: Heroin
- National Drug Intelligence Center — Texas Drug Threat Assessment: Methamphetamine
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Addiction Science
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Cocaine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Methamphetamine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Methamphetamine
- The Washington Times — Heroin use, overdose deaths on rise in Texas
- U.S. Department of Justice — Members of Drug Trafficking Organization That Trafficked Multiple Thousands of Kilograms of Marijuana from El Paso to Dumas, Texas, and Elsewhere Plead Guilty