Located about 150 miles from the border of Mexico, San Antonio, Texas is home to 1.4 million people. San Antonio is one of the first big cities to see large shipments from of illegal drugs from Mexico (like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine). The city is actually considered to be a drug shipment epicenter for DTOs (drug trafficking organizations).
Alcohol and prescription drugs are also major problems in San Antonio. There is hope—San Antonio is home to at least 24 rehab centers where people can get the treatment and care they need. On top of that, The Lone Star State is doing what it can to spread awareness about drug addiction and to limit the amount of prescription drugs made available to the public.
Within 200 miles of Mexico, San Antonio is one of the first big cities to get hit with large drug shipments, which leaves the residents prone to some of the other problems that come with drugs. Heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, crack, cocaine, and alcohol are no strangers to big city life in Texas—all of them can have serious consequences like overdose, death and addiction.
Addiction In San Antonio
Addiction isn’t some phenomenon that only happens in large cities; it happens everywhere. The difference between a small rural town and a gigantic city like San Antonio is the availability of illicit drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine. Whereas growing up in small town U.S.A. the drugs people are using have already made all the big stops—perhaps in some cases they have gone through San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and so on. The point here is that larger cities have drugs readily available, and when there are drugs—there is addiction.
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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”
Some of the most common signs of an addiction are:
- 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)
Drug Trafficking In San Antonio
As previously mentioned, the city of San Antonio is in close proximity to Mexico so it serves as an international “transhipment center.” According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, “San Antonio is located approximately 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border; consequently, it does not receive the heightened law enforcement scrutiny common along the border. As a result, many Mexican DTOs (drug trafficking organizations) are establishing cells in the city that specialize in drug transportation to other transportation and distribution centers in Texas and to drug markets in other regions of the United States.” In other words, San Antonio works as a sort of drug lord haven…
Although San Antonio might not have the exact same problems as neighboring cities like Dallas and Houston; any problem with drug trafficking is serious. Believe it or not San Antonio is considered to be “the largest and most populous drug market in the South Texas HIDTA (high intensity drug trafficking area) region” (National Drug Intelligence Center).
Big Drug Bust In San Antonio
On January 12, 2017 both federal and state authorities arrested 15 individuals based on drug trafficking “including San Antonio-based ringleaders Francisco Cerda and John Paul Flores, on federal drug charges stemming from a methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking investigation…” (United States Department of Justice). The same source announced that along with four kilograms of cocaine and 22 kilograms of methamphetamine, they confiscated $91,000 from the drug smuggling organization—this bust carried a case of up to 20 years in prison.
Other Drug Crime In San Antonio—Drug Production
As the county seat to Bexar County, San Antonio is home to four federal detention centers—all of which contain a significant number of drug criminals. “San Antonio–is the principal drug production center in the South Texas HIDTA region; considerably more illicit drug production takes place in the metropolitan area than in any other locale in South Texas.” (National Drug Intelligence Center). Even though federal agents, border patrol, police and military are fighting drug crimes they can’t stop all of it.
Why Don’t All Drug Criminals Get Caught?
A very small percentage of drug smugglers and criminals get caught, because they’ve gotten smarter. For instance, “through the first 10 months of 2008, only three methamphetamine laboratories were seized in Bexar County, according to NSS data, compared with six laboratory seizures in 2007 and 15 in 2006” (National Drug Intelligence Center – NDIC). A lot of these criminals smuggle drugs for a living, but what about the small time farmer who smuggles a couple grams of heroin in his shoe to support his business or family? There are a lot of different ways to get drugs into the United States, and some of the people bringing them don’t have much to lose.
With 17 entry points from Mexico, the southern region of Texas is the most common way to get drugs into the United States. “More cocaine and heroin have been seized by law enforcement officials in the South Texas region than in any other area along the U.S.-Mexico border (Arizona, California, New Mexico, and West Texas). Significant quantities of marijuana and methamphetamine have also been seized in the region” (NDIC).
Heroin Addiction Treatment And Opioid Epidemic
Heroin is strong and getting stronger; sometimes the drug is laced with Fentanyl which is suggested to be about “50 times more potent than heroin” as reported by NBC San Antonio. Drug abuse was responsible for more approximately 52,404 deaths in the United States in 2015 and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 33,091 of those deaths involved opiates. There is hope and even though it isn’t always easy, the road to recovery is within reach. There are at least 24 treatment centers in the San Antonio area alone, and that doesn’t even include the countless support groups like Narcotics Anonymous.
A person on heroin might seem like they’re irritable, for the most part, and then after spending some time alone they seem like they have some ease and comfort. A person suffering from a heroin addiction can do some pretty peculiar things, like always wear long sleeves, or take their coat into the bathroom with them and spend a lot of time alone.
Though it can often be hard to accept, here are some more symptoms of withdrawals that you might look for in a heroin or opioid addicted person:
- have pain in muscles and bones
- get chills
- throw up
- be unable to sleep
- feel nervous
Treatment for heroin is available in at least 24 different rehab centers in the San Antonio area, though sometimes a person suffering from an addiction will do better with the geographical relocation approach. As sad as it sounds one of the best ways to stay away from heroin is to stay away from people (friends or not) who are using it.
Some of the other treatment methods commonly used in rehab treatment centers for heroin (and some other drugs) are:
- Evaluation and Diagnosis
- Medication-Assisted Therapy (like Suboxone or Zubsolv)
- Contingency Management
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Inpatient and Outpatient Therapy
- Drug Testing
- Support Groups
- Aftercare Support
- Relapse Prevention
From Prescriptions To Addictions
Not everyone who gets hooked on heroin started with a prescription opioid, but there’s a pretty good chance. “A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers non medically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions” (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Prescription Drug Addiction In San Antonio
Prescription drugs don’t always lead to further addictions like heroin, cocaine and meth, but they are still responsible for more deaths than all three of those illicit drugs combined.
On the bright side, Texas kind of sets the bar high for prescribing drugs only when necessary, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, in 2014:
- Texas was below the national average for prescribing opioids
- Texans prescribed fewer long-acting opioids and high-dose pain relievers than any other state
- Texas was below the national average for prescribing benzodiazepines
Even though the state mandates limitations on prescribing drugs, “evidence indicates that individuals who are unable to obtain prescription drugs may begin to use heroin, which is more readily available and less expensive” (TDSHS). That doesn’t even include addictive sedatives like Xanax and Valium—drugs that are meant to help people with mental disorders like anxiety and depression. There are a variety of factors that can play into prescription drug addictions. Some of those can be avoided, but the general population, as a whole, is unaware of the dangers of prescription drugs.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services some of the major risk factors for prescription drug addictions are:
High Risk for Dependency, Addiction, and Overdose
- Chronic pain sufferers taking long and short acting opioids
- Anyone who combines opioids and other sedatives (benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and alcohol)
- Novice drug users (especially adolescents and young adults)
- Pregnant women
High Risk of Overdose
- Individuals with suppressed immune systems, active infections, and certain other chronic illnesses
- Intravenous opioid users who relapse following detox/abstinence
- People transitioning from opioids orally ingested to intravenous use
Cocaine Addiction Treatment In San Antonio
Cocaine and crack addiction can be pretty controlling. Once a person starts abusing either of these drugs they have a pretty good chance of becoming hooked—at which point they will have a hard time quitting even when they want to. Cocaine/crack addiction can be pretty hard to shake and oftentimes a person who has been using for a while will need to use a significant amount more of the drug to achieve the same high as when they started. A person who frequently uses cocaine might constantly have a runny nose or even get random nosebleeds.
If a person decides they want to quit cocaine or crack, pretty serious withdrawals are likely to be in their future. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that can often have painful withdrawals and other serious health consequences.
A person who’s trying to quit cocaine might:
- act nervous and restless
- feel very sad and tired
- have bad dreams
- be suspicious of people and things around them
Treatment and prevention of further use is possible but isn’t going to be without a fight. Cocaine withdrawals can be pretty scary and difficult and even though research towards a medication-assisted treatment has been in the works, there is none. A lot of people who try to quit on their own end up right back in the gutter—sometimes it can be helpful to get into a support group or a sort of rehab.
There are other successful treatment methods used to help people with a cocaine addiction; here are some of those methods:
- Detoxification to get the drug out of the system—clean diet, vitamins and fluids are essential.
- Behavioral Interventions to help someone understand how their behavior affects them self and others.
- Contingency Management to motivate a person not to use drugs and reward them for clean drug tests (sometimes with prize incentives and vouchers).
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help a person set goals for long term sobriety and achieve them.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy originally used for borderline personality disorder, DBT can be used to help a person understand why they acted or felt a certain way and change their thinking and therefore their behavior.
- Therapeutic Communities such as sober living homes can also be helpful to keep a person clean—typically landlords will conduct frequent drug tests to ensure that residents aren’t using drugs.
- Community Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous can be helpful
Also from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Those who provide treatment for cocaine use should recognize that drug addiction is a complex disease involving changes in the brain as well as a wide range of social, familial, and other environmental factors; therefore, treatment of cocaine addiction must address this broad context as well as any other co-occurring mental disorders that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions.”
Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment In San Antonio
Methamphetamine has taken the nation by storm and over the past several years the drug has become more potent. Mexican drug cartels use phenyl-2-propanone (p2p) to make their meth, which makes it more potent and addictive. Meth is especially problematic in southern states like Arizona, Southern California, and Texas because of their proximity to Mexico. Texas gets it the worst and where other than San Antonio to catch the first shipments of meth and other illicit drugs…
Though these states aren’t the only ones with the drug problems and certainly not all of the meth in the United States comes Mexico. In January of 2017 a drug bust in Anchorage, Alaska detained over $60,000 in heroin and crystal meth. It’s everywhere—and crystal meth has become an epidemic.
The effects of meth make a person seem completely insane. One of the side effects of the drug is known as “meth mites” or the belief that there are tiny, microscopic bugs crawling underneath the skin of the person using the drug. Often times a person high on meth will be seen scratching or picking their skin to the point of bleeding.
Some of the other signs of methamphetamine use are:
- extreme weight loss
- severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
- intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
- sleeping problems
- violent behavior
- paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
- hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t
“The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point 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” (NIDA).
Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism In San Antonio
Illicit drugs and prescription drugs aren’t the only problem in San Antonio. Believe it or not, one of the biggest problems the city is faced with is alcohol abuse. Alcohol is available at nearly every corner store and shopping center and if you’re old enough to buy it then you’re old enough to drink it. Unfortunately the problem doesn’t start when people turn 21—it starts a lot earlier than that. According to the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, in 2012, 11 percent of 4th graders, 21.3 percent of 5th graders and 27.8 percent of 6th graders had tried alcohol. These kids are between 9 and 12 years old using a highly addictive substance.
“Adolescents drink less frequently than adults, but when they do drink, they drink more heavily than adults… During this period, alcohol can present a special allure to some adolescents for many different reasons. Unfortunately, this attraction occurs at the very time adolescents may not be fully prepared to anticipate all the effects of drinking alcohol and at a time when they are more vulnerable to certain of its adverse consequences” (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence).
Alcoholism isn’t just something that happens to people who start drinking in elementary school; it can happen to anybody. There are different risk factors that can determine whether or not a person will become dependent on alcohol. A few of those precursors for alcoholism are biological, environmental and psychological.
Here are a few other ways to tell if you or a person you love is suffering from an addiction to alcohol:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
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Treatment for alcohol use disorders and other addictions are available, and there are a lot of people who care. It’s important to remember that if a person is addicted to a substance they’re actually sick—addiction is a disease. They have a mental obsession characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; at least not without help. Substance abuse and addiction are tragedies that claim the lives of approximately 570,000 people a year, in the United States alone. The people of Texas and other states are fighting addiction and doing what they can to prevent future substance abuse problems.
Addiction Prevention In Texas
Like many other states, Texas is attempting to do its part to ensure that people are educated about the dangers of drug addiction. Texas state government funds several different areas to combat addiction to illicit drugs and help people stay clean and sober.
“All DSHS-funded substance abuse prevention programs are mandated to address the state’s three prevention priorities: underage drinking, marijuana, and prescription drugs:
- Youth Prevention Programs – DSHS funds 133
Primarily target youth and young adults through evidence-based curricula and effective program strategies
- Community Coalitions – DSHS funds 44
Encourage community mobilization to implement evidence-based environmental strategies with a primary focus on changing policies and social norms in communities to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug use across Texas
- Prevention Resource Centers – DSHS funds 11
Serves as a central data collection repository and substance abuse prevention training liaison for the region”
How Do I Pay For Rehab?
Paying for rehab isn’t as hard as you may think and currently private insurance companies cover a lot of the costs for behavioral health issues like addiction. There are other forms of financing such as a sliding-fee or some prefer to pay out-of-pocket. The truth of the matter is that with the amount a person spends on drugs or alcohol, by going to rehab and getting sober, they will save money in the long run. San Antonio is a big city and as previously mentioned, there are at least 24 different rehab centers. Any treatment is better than no treatment.
How Long Does Treatment Last?
The length of time that a person receives treatment for all depends on the amount of drug they’re using. For instance, a person may need to go to treatment for longer than seven days if they’re shooting up heroin five or more times a day; the same can be true for any other drug.
Some of the treatment options are:
- Short-Term (28-30 Days)
- 30 Days
- 60 Days
- 90 Days
- Long-Term (90 Days to 12 Months)
“For residential or outpatient treatment, participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes. For methadone maintenance, 12 months is considered the minimum…” (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Getting Treatment In Texas
Vertava Health of Texas can be your saving grace no matter what kind of addiction you suffer from.
With a holistic approach to treatment, Vertava Health of Texas will help to free your mind and spirit from the turmoils of addiction and everyday life. Here you can make lifelong friends who will walk alongside you on the path of recovery. If you or someone you love is tired of addiction and what it’s done in your life, please reach out and contact us today. Recovery isn’t easy, but it can be simple—we can show you how.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention — Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
- National Broadcasting Company San Antonio — Opioid Epidemic Confounds Government
- National Drug Intelligence Center — San Antonio Market Area
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol Use Disorder
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Methamphetamine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Cocaine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Prescription Opioids and Heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Signs of Cocaine Use and Addiction
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Signs of Heroin Use and Addiction
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens — How Many People Die Each Year From Drug Use?
- San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse — Alcohol Knowledge Exchange
- Texas Department of State Health Services — Presentation to Senate Health and Human Services Committee: Prescription Drug Abuse in Texas
- United States Department of Justice — South Texas Border and San Antonio Market Areas