Drugs and Treatment in Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas, is located on the southern coast of Texas. Its name is Latin, meaning “body of Christ,” and reflects its Catholic and Hispanic influences. Although it has only the eighth-largest population in Texas at 325,733 people in 2016, it is the fifth-largest port in the entire country, welcoming vast shipments of oil and farm products. The majority of its residents work in the oil industry, manufacturing, or tourism.
“Corpus,” as Texas natives affectionately refer to it, is full of contrasts and diverse neighborhoods, including portions of Mustang Island and North Padre Island. It is home to a branch of Texas A&M University and has a strong military connection, hosting a Navy air station, an Army depot, and a Coast Guard station, while at the same time some of its suburbs are very popular Spring Break destinations. Host to the annual Texas Jazz Festival every October, it is a popular tourist destination for its beaches, birdwatching, and museums. For 36 years, it has held a Harbor Lights Festival celebration in December, complete with illuminated boat parade on the Gulf of Mexico. Yet its economy has also historically struggled. A ranking of cities by WalletHub in 2005 placed Corpus Christi at 138 out of 150 U.S. cities in terms of education and economic opportunity. Its reputation was further tarnished by being ranked second for obesity in the country and third for its rate of diabetes. It has shown some progress since then, with the per capita income rising to an estimated $26,481 in 2016 from $17,419 in 2000.
A City is Crippled
The “Sparkling City by the Sea” has encountered many challenges over the years, being subject to a higher-than-national average number of natural disasters. Most recently, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in the city on August 25, 2017, and went on to drop gallons of rain, flooding the Houston region located about 200 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. According to a 2018 report from the South Texas Economic Development Center, Hurricane Harvey caused severe destruction to the Corpus Christi suburbs of Port Aransas and Robstown, and recovery is still ongoing.
Recovery is needed in other ways as well. Corpus Christi is struggling with the effects of substance abuse. According to the Proceedings of the Community Epidemiology Work Group, June 2014, alcohol is the most-abused substance in the state of Texas, and the same is true for Corpus. In regard to narcotics in Corpus, heroin’s popularity is decreasing, and the trend is now shifting towards methamphetamine, and not just in men. In contrast to other substances, 59% of people who entered treatment in 2013 for primary methamphetamine addiction were female. Marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids are also commonly abused. Additionally, the area boasts what is known as the “Houston Cocktail,” a potent mix of the prescription drugs carisoprodol, alprazolam, and hydrocodone. Opioid addiction is a significant problem, sometimes beginning after an operation or an injury at work for which pain medications are prescribed.
In the first two months of 2018, there were several arrests for drug-related charges. One was a group of men selling firearms and methamphetamine out of a tattoo parlor, and another group was arrested for possession and manufacture of synthetic cannabinoids and methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine base and marijuana, along with possession of firearms and explosives. The problem has grown to the point where at least one local judge is becoming stricter towards people on probation who are caught drinking alcohol, using drugs, or possessing firearms.
Substance abuse is deadly in this area, as in many other parts of the country. For example, in February 2018, a man driving a 12-passenger van the wrong way on the interstate killed a 29-year-old woman and now faces charges of intoxicated manslaughter. Nueces County, of which Corpus Christi is the seat, has the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state of Texas. One South Texas psychiatrist who practices in Corpus Christi part-time had his medical license suspended and is under investigation as he was found to have written more than 4,000 opioid prescriptions in one year. In response, in 2017, the Commissioner’s Court of Nueces County began mounting a lawsuit against manufacturers, promoters, and distributers of opioid medications. The state has also passed harsher restrictions on prescriptions for Schedule Two medications like hydrocodone, requiring a special type of prescription for these medications.
Whether you are struggling with addiction to prescription medications, alcohol, or methamphetamine, help is available. Even if you have tried to quit before and relapsed, you can try again and succeed with the right help and willingness to leave the cycle of addiction. Your previous attempts are a source of information about what works and does not work for you that can aid you in this current attempt to stop using.
When first reaching out for help, program intake staff will want to learn more about you, your history, and how your strengths can help you face this challenge to break free from addiction. They will ask you about what kind of alcohol and drugs you have used in your life and about the effects your substance use has had on your relationships, your work, and your life in general. Usually there are forms and questionnaires for you to fill out to help the staff understand your situation and better assist you. Sometimes program staff may ask to speak with your family or friends to learn more about you and to let them know how they can be helpful in your treatment. Each step of this intake and assessment is there for a reason, so be as patient as you can with the process. Reaching out for help can be hard. Remember that program staff and providers understand your struggles and want to help you. They also will not share your information outside of the program or tell anyone that you are seeking substance abuse treatment, since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requires confidentiality. Therefore, be as open as possible with staff about your challenges and use, since this is important in getting the care you need.
Staff are not the only ones who get to ask questions. You and your support system should create a list of your own questions about the program’s cost, insurance coverage, if it is licensed, the phases of the program and its length. For court-ordered treatment, such as drug court, make sure to check that the program meets your court’s requirements. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests asking the following five questions of any treatment program that you are considering for yourself or a loved one:
- Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
- Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?
- Does the program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change?
- Is the duration of treatment sufficient?
- How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment? (NIDA, 2013)
Many programs deal exclusively with substance abuse by itself. Some people have struggles with substance abuse along with issues with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. In that case, what is known as a “dual-diagnosis” program may be a better fit. Once you and whatever treatment program you have chosen have talked and decided that it is a good match, you will set a start date for you to enter the program.
Types of Treatment Programs:
Each type of treatment program has its own unique focus, purpose, techniques, and strengths. A large part of the intake and assessment process is learning more about the different options and collaborating with the treatment providers to create a personalized treatment plan to address your situation. Your plan could include one or more of several different treatment settings.
This might be done as either an inpatient or outpatient, depending on the substance(s) you have been using and how long you have been using them. Medically managed withdrawal is particularly important if you are coming off of alcohol, opiates like heroin, barbiturates, or pain medications. Often medically managed withdrawal is not only safer for you, but also a little more comfortable. Most substances leave your system within a week after you stop using. Physical withdrawal and detox is only the first step, however. You will still need the coping strategies and skills to prevent relapse and starting living the free and healthy life you have been desiring. This is where a treatment program is helpful.
After completing detox and safely withdrawing from drugs, you can now start a treatment program. If you have continuing health issues that require medical care or close monitoring, then inpatient treatment may be recommended for a few days to weeks. The next step after stabilizing your physical health is to enter residential treatment. Here medical staff are still available if a need arises, but your physical state is not constantly watched as it is in inpatient treatment.
Residential treatment programs are what their name implies. You reside around the clock at a treatment facility, often for 30, 60, or 90 days, to undergo different types of therapy and learn more about changing habits, coping skills, relapse prevention and the other tools you need to stay sober in the future. Different programs have different rules about contact with family and friends while you are in the program. They also vary in whether you can leave the facility during treatment. The benefit of residential treatment is that you can take the time to focus on you without being distracted by other things from everyday life. It can be especially helpful if you have tried outpatient treatment but it was not enough support. This type of treatment program is also useful for people whose living situation is not supportive or stable.
Partial Inpatient Treatment:
Although it can be great to be able to focus solely on your treatment in a residential program, it is not always possible to leave your responsibilities at work or home for weeks at a time. Partial treatment can be an option, especially if your living situation is stable and supportive. In these partial hospitalization programs (PHP), you spend up to 20 hours a week in therapy and other treatment, and the rest of the week is a chance to use what you have learned in actual life situations, sleeping at home every night. If you have been in a residential or inpatient program for a while, you might transition into PHP as a way to gradually reenter daily life while still getting support.
Alternatively, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) might be a fit. Such programs can vary in how often you attend, usually somewhere from 9 to 20 hours a week. These hours could be concentrated in just a few days or spread over several days. For example, the program might meet for two hours a day each morning, five days a week, or it could meet three days a week for 6 hours a day. The IOP might even offer transportation to and from the program’s location. These programs are another option for slowly easing out of a more intensive program.
Completing an intensive program can be exciting but also challenging once you are back out in the real world facing triggers, stresses, and sometimes even pressure from old friends or family who still drink or use. Finding supportive outpatient treatment can help make recovery a little easier to maintain. It might even be enough treatment by itself, depending on your needs, the severity of your physical and emotional addiction, and your substance use history. In this kind of treatment, you stay in your own living situation and go to scheduled meetings and appointments. These could be individual meetings with a therapist, or couples or family therapy. It could also be appointments with a psychiatrist about medications. Medical treatments exist for some addictions and these can be given on an outpatient basis. For opioid addiction, these include methadone, suboxone and naltrexone. Medications used for alcohol abuse are Antabuse and naltrexone. No medication can do it all, however, so they need to be combined with support such as talk therapy or group meetings. At present, there are no medications to help support sobriety for methamphetamine, although some are currently being researched.
Any big change in our habits and behavior takes time. No matter how many tools you have gained from your treatment program, aftercare is still needed to help you use them and avoid relapsing. Groups such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommend a minimum of one year of aftercare. Aftercare is tailored to your needs and availability. Sometimes it consists of a regular reoccurring one-on-one or group therapy session for accountability and support, as well as help figuring out how to use the skills you have learned. Support groups, the most well-known of which are Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, are often part of aftercare. After being in treatment, it might seem redundant to go through aftercare. However, this is a necessary phase to solidify all of the hard work you have done, help you troubleshoot obstacles, and deal with triggers. It is important to ask about aftercare options when you start looking into treatment programs.
Especially if you have been using substances for many years, learning how to live in sobriety can take time. Moving into a sober living house can be a way to get more support and more time to practice your skills before being on your own. There are also drug and alcohol-free living spaces, called “halfway houses,” for those who are leaving prison, so it is good to ask which type of space when researching these houses. Sober living environments let you live in a small group of people who all want to remain sober. Often they will encourage or require that you continue with outpatient treatment in some form, such as going to support groups or individual therapy, usually off-site. Many residents live in these house for a year or less. In Texas, sober living houses do not need to be licensed or certified.
Learning about the process of substance abuse treatment all at once may seem overwhelming. It will take time and effort on your part, but you may find that recovery takes less time than you thought and that you have gained more than you expected. Getting help is a gift to you and to those around you. You are investing in your future. Each step of a treatment program will build upon the previous step to give you the tools and skills you need to be successful in your recovery and your life, and you will have support and encouragement as you go along from the program staff and others in recovery. Things may seem bleak now, but you have the power to make your future brighter. Don’t be another Corpus Christi statistic or sad news story in the Caller-Times or on KRISTV. There is hope for you or your loved one. Reach out for help today.