For many Americans, the notion of drug cartels is little more than character fodder for the plot of a crime movie. For those living in Texas, however, the influx of heroin into the state is a very real problem and can be traced, in part, to the activity of Mexican drug cartels.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration working in the Laredo area have noted an increased number of seizures involving heroin or opioids related to gang activity, likely connected with cartels and drugs moving across the border.
Resurgence in Heroin Use
The entire nation has seen a significant rise in the use of heroin that has ignited concern and action from politicians, federal and state agencies and local law enforcement. In just over 10 years, the number of heroin users increased by over 200,000 (119,000 in 2003 to 330,000 in 2014), according to government surveys.
Heroin represents only a small percentage of the overall drug problem in the United States, but its use is growing at a faster rate than all others. Various theories have been proposed to explain the resurgence of the drug, but there is a general consensus that the prescription painkiller epidemic has contributed to the increase in heroin use.
According to field division reports by the DEA, the demand for heroin in Texas has followed the national trend. With supplies up and costs down, reported incidents involving exposure to heroin ranged from 181 in 1998 to a high of 307 in 2013.
Texas poison control centers reported that the number of calls involving heroin was 307 in 2013, up from 181 in 1998. In cases of fatal heroin poisoning or overdose, the average age of the victim was 36 in 2013 compared to 41 in 2005.
Heroin Use Among Young Adults
A key finding for drug abuse trends in Texas during 2014 was the increase of heroin use among teenagers and young adults. A survey of students in participating secondary schools showed that 3.3 percent of this population had used heroin at least once in their lifetime. This peak among younger users was not a steady climb, but the percentage was higher than previously recorded data:
2001 – 3 percent
2005 – 3 percent
2007 – 2.4 percent
2009 – 2.1 percent
A large part of this trend toward younger heroin users in Texas is linked to increasing student use of the drug. Although the proportion of Texas secondary students reporting lifetime use of heroin actually dropped from 2.4 percent in 1998 to 1.1 percent in 2012, there was an increase of 1.2 percent in reports among Texas high school students.
Deaths from Heroin Overdose
One of the most disturbing aspects of heroin addiction is the potency of the drug and the potential for fatal overdose. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 371 heroin overdose deaths in Texas in 2012 compared to 111 deaths in 1999.
As one might expect from increasing usage among the younger population, the average age of people dying from a heroin overdose also has declined from 41 years old in 2005 to 36 in 2013. The proportion of heroin treatment admissions who were younger than 30 rose from 41 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2013, while the proportion of older clients entering treatment with heroin as the primary problem decreased correspondingly.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction is Available
These trends and findings regarding heroin use are certainly troubling, but treatment and rehabilitation options are available for those struggling with heroin addiction.
Nova Recovery Center has four different locations in Texas that offer outstanding programs, including detox, residential inpatient, intensive outpatient, supportive outpatient and other services. Nova’s programs provide an individualized continuum of care specifically designed for the highest possible outcomes for long-term sobriety.