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Opioid Abuse in Texas – A Growing Epidemic

Press Release

Opioid abuse isn’t just a nationwide problem; it’s a local problem that is affecting more and more Texans every year. Opioids were responsible for over 33,000 deaths in 2015, having more than quadrupled since 1999, and that number continues to climb. In an effort to halt the epidemic, President Trump recently declared opioid abuse an emergency in the U.S., giving agencies more resources to combat the problem.

Texans are among those battling opioid addiction, and are increasingly losing the fight. As a result, both Texas and the rest of the U.S. are boosting their abilities to quell the epidemic, including increasing awareness among the public on prevention and how they can seek treatment for themselves or loved ones.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs that are based on or derived from opium, a powerful substance naturally containing morphine. Opium is considered a highly addictive narcotic and is commonly abused by its users. Opioids are generally classified into two groups: synthetic and non-synthetic.

Opioids That Are Derived from Opium (Non-synthetic) 

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Synthetic Opioids

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Fentanyl (a patch similar with effects similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent)

Synthetic opioids are usually more concentrated than non-synthetic ones, which makes it easier to overdose on them.

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

Opioids are intended to be used as pain managers and anesthetics, given their ability to block pain receptors in the brain. And this is exactly what makes them so dangerous.

Opioids drive up the dopamine levels in the brain and give the user an intense “feel good” sensation.

If a user continues to use opioids for an extended period, the brain becomes used to these intense feelings and requires higher dosages of the drug to achieve the same result. Long-term use combined with increased dosages led to the frightening prescription pain medication or heroin dependency that over two million U.S. citizens struggled with in 2015. In fact, it’s estimated that 23% of heroin users develop an opioid addiction.

America’s Opioid Crisis

Non-synthetic opioids have been abused for decades, but the development of prescription synthetic opioids is becoming just as culpable. Of the 33,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, nearly half involved a prescription opioid. Not surprisingly, about three-quarters of new heroin users started with legal prescription drugs like hydrocodone or oxycodone, which are similar in chemical structure to heroin.

Doctors prescribe these synthetic opioids for chronic pain relief, but 8-12% of users end up developing an opioid use disorder. As a result, some go on to use illegal opioids to satisfy their addiction.

Over 90 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, but that number is expected to climb.  It’s projected that there will be over 65,000 deaths from opioid overdose in 2017, almost doubled from 2015.

That is, unless something can change our nation’s current opioid status – and fast.

Opioid abuse has taken a huge toll on the country. Serious steps need to be taken to prevent opioid abuse and save lives.

The US Government and the State of Texas are Addressing Opioid Abuse

Attorney Generals from across the country are collaborating on a bipartisan committee to investigate the role of drug manufacturers in the epidemic. The goal of this coalition is to look into marketing and other related practices of drug companies to see if their role has contributed to the current opioid crisis. Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, has joined this committee.

As part of the ongoing effort to fight back against unnecessary opioid use, Texas doctors are turning to the prescription monitoring program, or P.M.P., that tracks every opioid prescription passed out.

The system has been available for years and tracks drugs like Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. Doctors are now using it with new hope to combat the estimated 13% fraudulent prescription cases. They can better identify which patients are seeing multiple doctors for opioid prescriptions.

However, it’s not a perfect solution. Users who are suffering from opioid addiction can still get their vices through illegal channels. Others may turn to illicit alternatives like heroin to satisfy their addiction.

The P.M.P. is certainly not the end-all solution to the opioid crisis, but it’s progress.

How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Opioid Addiction

Nation- and statewide efforts will help prevent opioid abuse in the future. There are also treatment options available for those who are already addicted.

Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital’s Chemical Dependency Treatment Program is an effective option. This program has helped countless recovering opioid dependents because it is tailored to each individual based on their addiction level and stage of recovery.

In addition, Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital provides community for those suffering from addiction. Patients need to realize they aren’t alone in their struggle to overcome their dependency. We promote an environment conducive to communication to help patients process their daily challenges and learn to overcome them.

The treatment process at Houston Behavioral is a holistic one, focusing on both physical and emotional healing. We incorporate a variety of proven programs, including CBT and Living in Balance, as well as 12-step therapy and an Individualized Wellness Recovery Plan. Patients who focus on the following areas generally see the greatest recovery and reintegration into their community:

  • Physician-monitored detox (when necessary)
  • Triggers
  • Cravings
  • Relapse prevention
  • Stress management
  • Crisis management
  • Family issues
  • Anger management
  • Planning for sobriety and reintegration

Our professional staff is dedicated to the individual needs of our patients. Through an integrated team of psychiatrists, physicians, licensed therapists, social workers, registered nurses, dieticians, and other mental health staff we are able to work closely with each patient to ensure their goals are met.

Following an inpatient admission for detox, patients have the opportunity to continue their treatment at Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in a Partial Hospitalization Program. There they will continue to be monitored by a psychiatrist and attend 5 groups per day five days a week. Here they will continue to address their recovery and any challenges they may face once they are home. For patients who do not need intensive medication management, Pathway to Wellness, an intensive Outpatient Program, can be the opportunity for continued structure, where patients attend 3 groups per day to address relapse prevention and other needs related to their illness.

In Closing

The opioid epidemic in America is far too great to ignore, and it’s happening in our own backyard. Drug overdose is now the number one cause of death in the U.S., with over 52,000 drug overdose-related deaths in 2015.

Perhaps the greatest silver lining in this dismal situation is that opioid addiction and related deaths are preventable.

If you or your loved one needs help overcoming an opioid addiction, take the first step toward healing and contact Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital today.