Drugs and Treatment in Tyler, Texas
Background of Tyler, Texas
Tyler, the largest city in central Smith County, Texas, has a population of 101,421. Tyler serves as the county seat, and contributes greatly to the region’s major financial, economic, educational, and cultural components. Named after John Tyler (the tenth President of the United States) in 1846, this town has a wide range of historical museums (such as, the Rose Museum, and Museum of Art) and attractions (the Texas Rose Festival, and Liberty Hall, for example). This town is home to the University of Texas at Tyler and Tyler Junior College. In 2015, the median household income among county residents grew to $46,929 from “the previous year’s value of $46,669” (Data USA).
On the surface, this district appears well-off and reassuring, however further digging reveals the considerable number of residents abusing drugs and alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of 42,000 recorded opioid overdose deaths in 2016, involved a prescription medication. In 2018, Susan Anderson, the East Texas Abuse Coalition Coordinator, said this finding, “Is especially alarming in East Texas because of how often these drugs are being prescribed” (CBS19). Anderson points to Smith County as an example—“You’ve got about 89 opioid prescriptions written per 100 people compared to the state of Texas that has about 53 prescriptions written per a hundred people,” said Anderson (CBS19).
Then there’s the issue of drinking irresponsibly; for instance, in 2014, Tyler had 39 alcohol related crashes with injuries. The Tyler Morning Telegraph, compared this statistic to Texas cities with similar populations, and found that, “Allen had 20, League City: 13, Lewisville: 56, Odessa: 87, Richardson: 34, Pearland: 12, Round Rock: 37, San Angelo: 43, Sugar Land: 21, Wichita Falls: 38”. Statewide, Texas held the title of being the number 1 state for drunk driving fatalities with over 1,300 that year (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). However, in 2017, Texas represented the eleventh state for drunk driving deaths; Nevertheless, DUI related deaths continues to pose a major threat throughout the state.
Opioid Epidemic Near Tyler, Texas
Shockingly, The Texas Tribune, reported that Texas saw 1,186 opioid-related deaths in 2015, “While the nation as a whole had 33,000 such deaths that year”. Additionally, Smith County had 14 accidental poisoning deaths that involved opioids in 2015—the Texas Department of State Health and Human Services labeled this district as one with a higher number of opioid-related deaths (when compared to other counties). Slightly declining, Texas reported 1,375 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016 (a rate of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 persons). Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, states that, “Since 2010, the number of heroin-related deaths steadily increased from 260 to 530 deaths, and deaths attributed to synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl) rose from 156 to 250” in the state. Overall drug overdose fatalities in Texas came to 2,831 in 2017(CDC).
Response to Opioid Crises in Texas
Since 2017, Texas and a coalition of 40 other states have carried out extensive investigations and have made requests to eight companies that manufacture or distribute prescription painkillers. Upshur County (in East Texas), “Is suing a slew of prescription painkiller manufacturers and distributers in federal court, accusing them of fueling an opioid addiction epidemic that has gripped communities across the nation— in part by allegedly inflating the drugs’ benefits in treating chronic pain and downplaying the addiction risks” (The Texas Tribune,2017). Likewise, other Texas government officials have sought financial damages from companies alleged to have played a role in the opioid crisis (The Texas Tribune, 2017). Furthermore, Kut 90.5 (Austin’s NPR station), reports that state lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 that aimed at improving opioid access, but statistics have revealed that progress is slow-moving (and unchanged in certain counties).
DUI Statistics in Smith County, Texas
Statistics from City-Data.com, reveals that from 2003 to 2012, 66.5 percent of surveyed residents in Smith County drank alcohol in the past 30 days. Add this average with the number of drinkers who drove a vehicle while intoxicated, and it resulted in many DUI incidences. For instance, the Right Step, reports that in Texas, 987 people lost their lives in 2016 due to DUI crashes—this included 56 pedestrians and cyclists, 143 passengers, 638 DUI drivers, 149 persons in vehicles “not driven by DUI drivers, and one other”. Furthermore, the Right Step also claims that, “About every 20 minutes in Texas, someone is hurt or killed in a vehicular crash involving alcohol”.
What counts as a DUI in Texas? Those operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content level (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is considered driving under the influence. For commercial vehicle drivers this number lowers to 0.04 or higher, and for those under 21 years of age, any alcohol content level is charged as a DUI. Women and adolescents may drink just one or two drinks in an hour and end up with a BAC of 0.08; Men typically reach that level from consuming two or three drinks in an hour, or even less depending on the beverage.
What is Drug Addiction?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Drug addiction, “Also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication”. This definition includes substances such as marijuana and nicotine, and alcohol. Regardless of the physical, mental, relational, and financial damage the drug addiction is causing, the addicted individual will continue using. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suggests that although the initial decision to take drugs “is voluntary for most people, repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs”. Notably, drug addiction is coined a “relapsing” disease, because brain changes can be continuous; As NIH also points out—this is why “people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug”. Due to high probabilities for a person to relapse, it’s extremely important to seek treatment that’s ongoing (with emphasis on rehabs with aftercare requirements; see below).
Drug and Alcohol Abuse: The Causes
Why are some people more vulnerable to developing an addiction to substances than others? The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs”. Instead, a combination of factors “influences the risk for addiction”. Therefore, the more risk factors an individual has, the more likely he or she will form an addiction.
Three examples include:
Biology— Genetics account for nearly half go an individual’s risk for addiction. For instance, a person that uses alcohol to cope with obsessions may have a father or mother, or even a grandparent, who struggles with mental illness.
Environment— A person’s social surroundings (family and friends) and situations (for example, economic status) significantly influences the person’s likeliness to form an addiction, whether that be with drugs, alcohol or in other areas. Consider a child that’s growing up in a chaotic, unpredictable household, or a person that’s in an abusive relationship, for example.
Development— Critical developmental stages are greatly impacted by genetic and environmental factors, especially for children and teenagers. Consequently, the younger someone is that begins using drugs, the more likely he or she will become addicted.
Symptoms and Behaviors of Drug Addiction
Several common signs include:
- Feeling the urge to use the drug regularly and frequently
- Obsessing on obtaining and consuming the drug; planning for next time
- Needing more of the drug to get the same effect (gradually increasing the amount)
- Spending and losing money quickly on the drug
- Isolating oneself from certain persons, or social or recreational activities
- Disregarding responsibilities and obligations
- Using the drug, despite the problems (physically and psychologically) it’s been causing
- Carrying out acts to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as using your body as a “trade”
- Risky behavior on the drug
- Spending large amounts of time recovering from the effects of the drug
- Inability to quit using
Complications of Drug Addiction
Drug use causes considerable short-term and long-term damages, especially with particular drugs or combining substances. Some examples include:
- Methamphetamine, opiates, and cocaine—these highly addictive substances alter psychotic behavior, and increases chances of seizures or death due to overdose.
- Ecstasy or molly (MDMA)—these drugs often produce dehydration, and may also cause seizures. Long-term use of molly can permanently damage the brain.
- GHB and flunitrazepam— memory loss, confusion and sedation may result from these drugs. They impair the ability to defend oneself from undesired contact and memory of the event, and are therefore called “date rape drugs”. Seizures, coma and death may result from high doses, and when mixed with alcohol the danger increases.
Short-Term Effects of Opiate Use
Several short-term effects of opiate use may include:
- Pain relief
Common Side Effects of Opiate Use
- Respiratory depression
Long-Term Effects of Opiate Abuse
Common opiate-induced negations involve the following:
- Development of tolerance
- Abdominal discomfort and bloating
- Brain damage (from respiratory depression causing hypoxia)
- Liver damage
- Increased chances of contracting HIV (with needles and injections)
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Use
- Slurred speech
- Mood shifts
- Sleep disruption
- Body temperature lowers
Symptoms of Excess Alcohol Consumption
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Temporary loss of consciousness
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
- Death of brain cells (which can cause brain disorders and lowered level of mental or physical function)
- Liver damage resulting in cirrhosis
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas; also causes nerve damage).
- Increased tolerance level
How To Recover From Substance Addiction
Fortunately, Texas has resources, rehab centers and therapy groups available for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Once the individual decides to give up their toxic addiction once and for all, everything else will fall into place. Steps towards achieving sobriety includes the following:
What It Means to Detox:
Detoxing is the first physical step in the recovery process—the initial mental step is deciding to give up the addiction. Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol takes around five to ten days to fully rid of toxins. Depending on the individual and the drug(s) used, this process may require a medically supervised team. For instance, if a person has relied on drugs for over ten years, he or she may be tempted to use during this stage as way to escape side effects, which includes: headaches, nausea/vomiting, poor sleep, agitation and anxiety (to list several). For others, however, detoxing can be achieved at home or in a low-stressed environment with supportive people nearby.
Recovery Steps Following Detox:
Assessment: The patient answers a range of relevant questions from the therapist or staff member.
Intake: The patient meets with other staff members and people in the program; More information is exchanged.
Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment: rehabs offer similar style and approaches, such as group therapy, individual counseling, medical examination, but here’s how they differ:
- Residential treatment centers (RTC)—inpatient residential rehab; around 6 months
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)—outpatient center; 5 days/week, 6 hours/day
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)—outpatient rehab; 3 days/week, 3 hours/day
More on Inpatient Vs. Outpatient
Aftercare: The patient will check in with the program from time to time, so that he or she can report on their post-progress.
Sober living: After graduating the program, the individual will continue living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. By choosing sobriety, you are choosing to live.
Building a Real-World Community After Rehab
Finding a sense of community and belonging is essential in carrying out an independent and successful life after recovering from a drug addiction. Attending groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), SMART Recovery, or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), offers a sense of identify, compassion, and similarities shared among group members. By communicating and sharing stories with other members, there’s a sense of peace in knowing that others also struggle and are there to support you. Usually AA and NA groups helps individuals find a sponsor, or a person to help intervene when they feel like caving in to their old ways. As the program progresses, the individual could also sponsor someone else just beginning the program—which many members find helpful and rewarding. If a local area does regularly hold these groups, it only takes two people to start a group; there are multiple books with the 12-steps outline online.