The Great State of Texas and it's Trouble with drugs
In the great state of Texas, known for its extreme patriotism and larger than life persona that presents big personalities and statewide pride, the state faces the same illicit drug problem as the rest of the country. Texas is ranked 2nd in both population (28, 304,596) and landmass, which holds a lot of people at risk for drug and alcohol addiction.
The average household is 2.84 persons per home, with 9,289,554 households in the state. There has been an estimated $145,035,130 spent on government assistance for residents in the state, and 64.2% of the population in the workforce. As of December 2017, 13,591,000 in the civilian work force.
The estimated drug poisoning deaths as of 2014 were 2,601 Drug Poisoning Deaths in the state or 9.7%, opposed to the 47,055 in the nation or 14.7%.
The median age of residents is a relatively young 32.9 years old. The birth rate in Texas is one of the highest in the nation, ranked #7 in the country. The state has an 82.3% high school graduation rate and a 28.1% of residents with Bachelor’s degrees. The state is highly insured, with only 18.6% uninsured percent of the population without insurance.
With the states nearness to Mexico, there is an estimated 1,041,000 illegal immigrants in the state. Since 2006, the country of Mexico has been at war with itself over the illegal drug trafficking market that has caused its residents to flee their homes in search a safer dwelling to raise their families. Deaths in the border cities of the country of Mexico, the drug traffickers are killing the innocent natives of their own country by the thousands. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report estimates at least 80,000 people have been killed due to organized crime related incidents since 2006.
The drug cartels are currently taking in $19-$29 billion each year from drug sales in the US and Texas is one of their leading causeways into the country. The dominated drug trafficking organization is the Sinaloa Cartel, lead by the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman who is currently sitting in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center located in Foley Square near lower Manhattan in New York.
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Overdose facts in Texas
This serious but largely overlooked national crisis has taken root in Texas – and the numbers are startling. Between 1999 and 2007, overdose deaths increased by more than 150 percent. Statewide, accidental poisoning (most commonly due to drug overdose) is the third-leading cause of injuryrelated death in Texas, behind car crashes and suicide. While a majority of these poisoning victims are middle age adults or older (ages 35-54), almost one-third (31.4%) were either youth or young adults (ages 15-34).
Overdose affects every community in Texas, but some cities and counties have been particularly hard hit. For instance, in 2007 more people died from accidental overdose in Houston than from car crashes. Legal prescription opioid drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone were identified in 50% of all accidental overdose deaths between 2005 and 2009 in Houston, claiming more lives than all illegal drugs combined. When heroin is included, the percent of deaths involving all types of opiates rises to 56%.
These figures mean that over half of all accidental overdose deaths in Houston in the past five years could have been prevented if the overdose reversal medication naloxone, coupled with overdose prevention education, had been available to people at risk of an opiate overdose and their loved ones.
The city of Austin, has also seen an alarming increase in overdose deaths in recent years.
In the Dallas area, media reports indicate that overdoses from a mixture of heroin and Tylenol PM ®, known by the street name “cheese”, have increased.
According to the Dallas Morning News’ analysis of Dallas County medical records, this heroin mixture has claimed the lives of at least 30 people age 18 or younger in the county since 2005.
Still, prescription opiates are the major driver of the overdose epidemic in Dallas, as elsewhere in the state.
The scope of the crisis in Fort Worth prompted one local commentator to remark, “The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office reports that 161 county residents died in 2008 because of the overuse of illegal and prescription drugs. More than 85 percent of these deaths were listed as accidental, which means they were unintended and preventable.”
To varying degrees, however, these communities all face the same crisis – with the same solutions. Moreover, these statistics almost certainly underrepresent the problem. Data collection and reporting practices are insufficient in most jurisdictions, creating a lack of information necessary to quickly and accurately identify and combat trends in overdose incidents and related fatalities.
Naloxone's availability in Texas
But the state also is home to four of the country’s 25 cities with the highest rates of opioid abuse — Texarkana, Amarillo, Odessa and Longview, according to a report by healthcare information company Castlight Health.
When the Texas Pharmacy Association order took effect Aug. 1, 2016, the drug is available for anyone who can afford the $50 to $100 price at any pharmacy that chooses to participate; Medicaid covers naloxone in Texas. In the lonestar state, you can receive a dose of Naloxone without a prescription at any of 715 Walgreens pharmacies in the state.
Nationally citizens are begging to Expand Programs to Reverse Opiate Overdose Naloxone, or Narcan, is a life saving tool used to reverse opiate-based drug overdoses. Naloxone has been FDA approved since 1971, and presents no potential for abuse as it has no pharmacological effect; it also has no effect if it is taken by a person that does not have opiates in their system. It needs to be made more readily available to those who may be in a position to respond to an overdose.
- Drugs that can be reversed include heroin, Oxycontin, methadone, vicodin, percocet, fentanyl, and morphine. Naloxone takes as little as two minutes to start working, and provides the brief but critical 30–90 minute window to call medical assistance during an overdose.
- Rescue methods also buy time and save lives. Training people, especially those at-risk of an overdose, as well as those who reside with, interact with or care for people at-risk for a drug overdose – such as family members, health care providers, spouses, law enforcement officers and correctional officers – will greatly increase the likelihood that a drug overdose won’t become fatal.
- Increased access to naloxone and training in rescue methods are especially vital in rural areas, where emergency medical services may take longer to arrive. Rural communities throughout the country have seen a dramatic increase in prescription opiate overdoses in recent years.
Good Samaritan Law
911 Good Samaritan Laws encourage people to call 911 by creating an exemption from arrest, charge or prosecution for possession of small amounts of drugs or alcohol when needing or calling for medical assistance in the event of an overdose.
The policy prioritizes saving lives over arrests for minor drug or alcohol law violations. Such laws are essential because overdose fatalities often occur when peers delay or forego calling 911 out of fear of arrest or police involvement, which researchers identify as the most significant barrier to the ideal first response of calling emergency services.
Such legislation does not protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as selling or trafficking drugs. This policy protects only the caller and overdose victim from arrest and prosecution for simple drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, and/or being under the influence.
Texas’ neighbor, New Mexico, became the first state in the nation to adopt a life-saving Good Samaritan law in 2007.
In fact, Good Samaritan policies for alcohol and/or other drugs are already saving lives at many of Texas’s major universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University, as well as nearly one hundred other college campuses nationwide.
SMU’s decision to adopt a Good Samaritan policy for alcohol and other drugs was a direct response to the tragic overdose deaths of several students in recent years. According to school officials, the policy appears to be working: students are less reluctant to call for help now that they do not face student conduct sanctions.
Such policies have proven effective in encouraging students to seek help in the event of an alcohol or drug overdose; in 2006, researchers found that Cornell University’s Good Samaritan policy led twice as many students to call 911 in a drug or alcohol emergency, while substance use among students did not increase.
“Solving this problem requires a partnership among students, parents, institutions and the larger community,” said SMU Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White.
Texas Drugs Facts
- Methamphetamine remains the major drug threat, according to half of the 18 DEA offices in Texas. There were 715 deaths due to methamphetamine in Texas in 2017, as compared to 539 due to heroin. Key indicators are far higher than when the drug was made from pseudoephedrine, and with the phenyl-2-proponone method, the drug is now 95% potent. Seizures at the Texas-Mexico border have increased by 103% since 2014. Methamphetamine in solution (“Liquid Meth”), which is easier to transport into the U.S., is increasing and the price of methamphetamine has dropped by half. The relationship between methamphetamine and HIV is increasing, with the proportion of HIV cases due to men having sex with men higher in Texas than it was in 1987 when HIV data were first reported.
- Heroin indicators are increasing, except for heroin admissions to treatment. Seizures along the Texas–Mexico border decreased 2%, although DEA reported Mexican opium production is increasing to sustain the increasingly high levels of demand in the United States. Texas has not yet suffered the epidemic of overdoses seen in the northeast because the heroin in Texas is Mexican Black Tar, which cannot easily be mixed with fentanyl. However, new potent “white” heroin made in Mexico is becoming increasingly available.
- “Other opiate” death rate in Texas between 2010 and 2015, when adjusted for age, has remained level. While the number of cases has grown, the population has also grown; Indicators are trending downward as a result of rescheduling of hydrocodone. Previously, fentanyl abuse and misuse in Texas had involved transdermal patches, but rogue fentanyl powder began appearing in spring 2016 and more events are being reported. In addition, the pattern of drinking codeine cough syrup, which was popular years ago, has returned recently with mentions of drinking not only codeine cough syrup (“Drank”) but also of drinking promethazine syrup.
- Benzodiazepine comprises less than 5 percent of all items seized and identified, but the number of persons admitted to treatment with a primary problem with benzodiazepines is increasing. Alprazolam (Xanax) is the most abused benzodiazepine, and in combination with hydrocodone and carisprodol, is known as the Houston Cocktail or Holy Trinity.
- Cocaine indicators are mixed, with the number of toxicology items identified increasing but the amount seized on the border and treatment admissions have decreased. Crack cocaine and synthetic cannabinoids remain drugs of choice among the homeless and those living in tent cities, but outreach workers report increased popularity of powder cocaine. Cocaine availability is expected to increase in the future due to increased acreage planted, decreased use of herbicides, and the FARC peace treaty in South America.
- Cannabis is ranked as the #1 threat by the other half of DEA offices in Texas because of the trafficking not only north-south, but also east-west. Seizures at the Texas-Mexico border are down 125% since 2014 but there is more domestic indoor and outdoor growing as well as the supply from states where the drug is legal or decriminalized. The demand for the drug has been influenced by changes in patterns of use with blunts and electronic cigarettes and the “vaping” of hash oil and “shatter”.
- Synthetic Cannabis and Synthetic Cathinone situation has changed: poison center cases involving both cannabinoids and cathinones have decreased while toxicology and treatment cases involving these synthetic are increasing. The chemical formulations and characteristics of persons using cannabinoids continue to change, with more cases occurring among the homeless population.
- PCP remains a problem. The number of PCP items identified by forensic labs has increased but poison center calls and treatment admissions are down. The pattern of dipping small cigarillos filled with synthetic cannabinoids into bottles of PCP continues, and may be exacerbating the severity of the cases involving the use of synthetic cannabinoids.
- Novel psychoactive substances including MDMA and the 2 C-xx Phenethylamines change depending on availability of the drug and perceived effects. Use of these drugs was lower in 2016 than in previous years.
- Drug patterns on the Texas Border continue to show high levels of use of cannabis, steady level of heroin since around 2004, slight increases in methamphetamine, and decreasing admissions for cocaine. In comparison, treatment admissions in the non-border area show increases in methamphetamine and heroin, level use of cannabis, and the same decrease in cocaine use.
Use in Minors in Texas
About 49,069 students in grades 7-12 from 99 school districts across the State were asked to report on their use of alcohol, tobacco, inhalants, illicit drugs, and over-the counter and prescription drugs, as well as, their attitudes, extracurricular involvement, sources of information, and other related behaviors. Students were randomly selected from Texas school districts using a multi-stage probability design.
In 2016, two changes may have increased reported prevalence. Both changes were implemented to create a more accurate representation of student substance use. The first change was methodological and involved updating student responses to reflect students’ most recent substance usage for certain cases, such as failing grades or trouble at home.
The second change was the addition of electronic vapor products as a form of tobacco on the survey instrument. In recent years, vaping has become a popular activity among youth. TSS results from 2016 confirm increased tobacco use prevalence as compared to results from previous years where vaping was excluded. Cumulatively, these two changes contribute a more accurate representation of student substance use. These changes should be noted when comparing findings across years.
Alcohol remains the drug of choice among Texas youth and the most widely used substance among surveyed students.
The use of illicit drugs remained relatively constant from 2014-2016. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among students. Nonmedical use of prescription drugs slightly increased between 2014 and 2016, particularly for Xanax and Valium. The use of tobacco significantly increased due to the introduction of vaping as a measure of tobacco use, as described above.
Use of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Inhalants
- Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance among Texas students. In 2014, 50.5 percent of students reported that they had used alcohol at some point in their lives. In 2016, 52.7 percent of students reported that they had used alcohol at some point in their lives. Past-month alcohol use also increased from 21.2 percent in 2014 to 28.6 percent in 2016.
- Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks at one time in the past month, was reported by 11.5 percent of students in 2016, down from 13.8 percent of students in 2014.
- Tobacco use among students increased. Lifetime use of any tobacco product increased from 22.4 percent in 2014 to 30.4 percent in 2016. Past-month use of tobacco was 8.4 percent in 2014 and 14.5 percent in 2016.
- Vaping, as a new measure of tobacco use, revealed significant use among students. In 2016, 24.9 percent of all students reported that they had vaped at some point in their lives. Nearly 40 percent of 11th and 12th graders reported vaping (35.7 percent and 38.7 percent respectively) in their lifetime. In terms of past month use, 8.9 percent of all students reported that they vaped in the last month.
- Lifetime inhalant use decreased from 12.3 percent in 2014 to 11.6 percent in 2016. In 2014, only 3.9 percent of students reported having used inhalants in the past month. In 2016, 4.3 percent of students reported having used inhalants in the past month. The most popular inhalants used to get high among secondary school students in both 2014 and 2016 were: helium, butane, propane, whippets, and Freon.
Use of Illicit Drugs
- Marijuana remains the most widely used illicit drug among Texas youth. However, lifetime marijuana use decreased from about 23.2 percent of students in 2014 to 20.8 percent of students in 2016. In 2014 past-month use of marijuana was reported by 9.1 percent of students, as compared to 12.2 percent of students in 2016.
- Use of cocaine or crack slightly increased from 2014 to 2016. In 2014, about 2.2 percent of students reported that they had ever tried cocaine or crack, and less than one percent reported using these substances in the month before the survey. In 2016, about 3.0 percent of students reported they had ever tried cocaine or crack, and 1.5 percent reported using these substances in the month before the survey.
- Ecstasy use revealed a slight decrease from 2016 to 2014 both in lifetime use (from 2.7 to 2.5 percent) and in past month use (from 0.8 to 0.7 percent).
- Lifetime use of hallucinogens among students slightly increased from 2.6 percent in 2014 to 3.1 percent in 2016. Past month use also increased from 0.8 percent in 2014 to 0.9 percent in 2016.
- In 2014, less than one percent of students reported lifetime use of methamphetamine (speed, crystal meth, ice, or crank). In 2016, there was a slight increase with 1.2 percent of students reporting lifetime use. Past-month use of methamphetamine has remained less than one percent for students since 2008.
- Use of heroin continues to be extremely low. Less than one percent of all students reported ever using heroin in 2016. Heroin use has been less than 1.0 percent since 2008.
- Student reports of steroid uses slightly increased from 1.0 percent in 2014 to 1.4 percent in 2016.
Use of Over-the-Counter Drugs
In 2014, 3.5 percent of students said they had ever taken DXM (dextromethorphan), Triple C’s, Skittles, or Coricidin nonmedically in their lifetime and 1.6 percent of students reported nonmedical use in the past month. These rates have remained constant in 2016 with 3.6 percent of students reported that they had ever taken DXM, Triple C’s, Skittles, or Coricidin in their lifetime and 1.6 percent reported nonmedical use in the past month.
Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs
- In 2014, about 10.8 percent of students reported using codeine cough syrup nonmedically at some point in their lives, and 5.1 percent reported that they used in the past month. These prevalence rates increased in 2016 with 12.8 percent of students reporting having ever used codeine cough syrup and 6.0 percent of students reported use in the past month.
- Two commonly abused narcotic prescription drugs: oxycodone products (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet) and hydrocodone products (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet) were first asked in the 2008 school survey. In 2016, these narcotics were combined into one question. In 2016, 5.0 percent of students reported using these products nonmedically in their lifetime and 2.4 percent of students reported using these products in the last month. These reports do not represent a significant increase from past years.
- Two popularly prescribed anti-anxiety drugs, Valium (or Diazepam) and Xanax (or Alprazolam), were first asked in the 2008 school survey. In 2016, these narcotics were combined into one question. About 4.0 percent of students reported non-medical use of these narcotics in their lifetime and 1.9 percent reported use in the last month. These combined reports represent an increase from reported use of Valium (1.0 percent reported lifetime use) and Xanax (3.1 percent reported lifetime use) in 2014.
- In 2016, a new question was added to capture the use of: Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Concerta, or Focalin. These drugs are stimulants commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but also abused by student seeking to improve their academic performance. In 2016, 4.0% of students reported using these substances in their lifetime and 1.8 percent reported using them in the past month.
The Texas College Survey of Substance Use is a biennial collection of self reported data related to alcohol and drug use, mental health status, risk behaviors, and perceived attitudes and beliefs among college students in Texas. The survey is conducted by the Public Policy Research Institute, a branch of Texas A&M University, in cooperation with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The 2017 survey included 18,327 undergraduate students aged 18-26 from 52 colleges and community college districts from across Texas. Students were invited to participate via email and completed the survey online.
- Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance on campus; almost 73% of Texas college students drank alcohol in the past year and about 35% binge drank at least once in the past month
- About one in three Texas college students used marijuana at least once in the past year
- There has been a significant decrease in prescription drug abuse
College Use Facts in Texas
About 73% of Texas college students reported having at least one alcoholic drink in the past year and about 58% reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in a sitting for males and four or more drinks in a sitting for females, was more prevalent among males (37%) than females (34%). College males were more likely than college females to report binge drinking at least six times in the past 30 days (7% vs. 4%), although this is down from the previous survey. On average, respondents said they had had enough alcohol to feel drunk 2.2 times in the preceding 30 days. Most underage Texas college students obtain alcohol from others, and 70% stated they obtained it from a friend.
- Marijuana was the still the most commonly used illicit drug among Texas college students in 2017, with 89% reporting past year use. Past year use of synthetic marijuana continued to decrease from 1% in 2015 to 0.6% in 2017, while past year use of cocaine decreased from 5% to 4.1% in the same two year period.
- Male college students were more likely to have used illicit drugs in the past year compared with female college students.
- Asian students had the lowest overall levels of past year illicit drug use, while Anglo students reported having the highest use. Students who reported illicit drug use also showed a slightly lower grade point average: 3.24 for users versus 3.40 for non-users.
Prescription Drug Misuse
- There was a significant decrease in prescription drug abuse. In 2015, 26% of respondents reported misuse, while only 22% reported misuse in 2017.
- About 11% had used pain killers (e.g., Vicodin, OxyContin, and Codeine) in the past year for the experience or feeling they caused. The number of college students who misused prescription stimulants in the past year dropped from 9% in 2015 to 7% in 2017. There was a reduction in lifetime usage of pain killers, with reports of OxyContin misuse dropping from 16% to 11%. The most commonly reported way to obtain prescription drugs was from someone else with a prescription (55%).
A little less than 49% of respondents believed that drug abuse is either a minor, moderate, or major problem on their campus, while 32% said it is not a problem at all (19% said they were not sure). More than 64% of students said that underage drinking is a problem on campus, and about 55% said that heavy alcohol use is a problem on their campus.
Respondents were asked to rate their mental state by describing how often they felt nervous, hopeless, depressed, worthless, or restless. Heavy drinkers reported feeling the highest levels in all four areas with worthlessness and nervousness being the highest reported. Illicit drug users reported higher levels of hopelessness and nervousness than non-users.
Reports of drunk driving decreased with 18% in 2017 reporting driving after drinking at least once a month as opposed to 23% in 2015. There was a significant drop in the number of students who said they have driven high or stoned in the past month (13.4% in 2015 versus 11.5% in 2017). Almost 47% said they had been a designated driver at least once a month.
Texas Drug Laws
Elements of Texas Marijuana Laws
Under 2 oz.: Class B misdemeanor; 2-4 oz.: Class A misdemeanor; 4 oz. to 5 lbs.: State jail felony; 5-50 lbs.: 3rd degree felony; 50-2000 lbs.: 2nd degree felony; Over 2000 lbs.: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution for life or 5-99 yrs. and $50,000
.25 oz. or less: Class B misdemeanor (if no remuneration); .25 oz. or less: Class A misdemeanor (with remuneration); .25 oz. to 5 lbs.: state jail felony; 5 lbs. to 50 lbs.: 2nd degree felony; 50-2000 lbs.: 1st degree felony; Over 2000 lbs.: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution for life or 10-99 yrs. and/or $100.000; Delivery to minor under 17 who is enrolled in school and over .25 oz.: 2nd degree felony; Within drug-free zone: penalties doubled
Some court districts in Texas have drug diversion programs that allow certain first-time offenders to complete a rehabilitation program instead of serving a prison sentence.
Penalties and Sentences
The sale of just 7 grams (roughly one-quarter ounce) of cannabis also carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a possible $2,000 fine. But selling more than 50 pounds of the herb (a felony) can land you in prison for 99 years, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. Selling any amount of marijuana to a minor is a felony, with a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Texas Compassionate Use Act: Main Provisions
Health & Safety § 481.001, et seq.
Less than 1 g.: state jail felony; 1-4 g.: 3rd degree felony; 4-200 g.: 2nd degree felony; 200-400 g.: 1st degree felony; 400 g. and over: 10-99 yrs. or life at Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution and/or $100,000
Less than 1 g.: state jail felony; 1-4 g.: 2nd degree felony; 4-200 g.: 1st degree felony; 200-400 g.: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution for life or 10-99 yrs. and/or $100,000; 400 g. and over: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution for life or 15-99 yrs. and/or $250,000; Delivery to minor under 17 who is enrolled in school: 2nd degree felony; Within drug-free zone: penalties doubled
Health & Safety §481.001, et seq.
Note: There is some crossover between drug trafficking and drug possession with respect to defenses.
The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked.
Example: Trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.
Manufacturing or cultivating illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine or marijuana, is illegal under federal and state laws (with limited exceptions for marijuana in certain states). Drug “manufacturing,” in a criminal law setting, occurs when an individual is involved in any step of the illicit drug production process. Those who sell certain precursor chemicals, specialized equipment, or simply offer to help produce drugs also may be charged with the crime.
The production of drugs typically is charged as a felony, with sentences including prison time, steep fines, and probation. Prison sentences and fines may be doubled for those convicted of manufacturing illegal drugs near schools and playgrounds.
Drug Manufacturing: Elements of the Crime
To be convicted of manufacturing (or intending to manufacture) illicit drugs, prosecutors must typically prove the elements of both possession and an intent to manufacture. For example, pseudoephedrine was once a popular cold medication. But it’s also used to make methamphetamine. If police were to find a box of the now-banned substance in an individual’s car, that may not be enough standing alone to prosecute for a manufacturing offense. But if the officer also found laboratory equipment commonly used to cook meth in the backseat, it could establish the probable cause needed for an arrest.
Similarly, the possession of marijuana seeds alone is not necessarily an indication of an intent to cultivate. But if officers also found indoor grow lamps and hydroponic equipment, it may trigger an arrest. (See below for state exemptions to marijuana cultivation laws.)
A permit or authorization to possess certain items otherwise used to make illegal drugs may be a defense. For example, pharmacists have access to a wide array of substances that may be used to manufacture illicit drugs. Also, certain chemicals and industrial supplies commonly used to make illegal drugs may also have legitimate uses that would require a permit.
Texas Drug Court Information
What Is a Drug Court? First developed in Miami in 1989, a drug court is a special court assigned to dispose of cases involving substance-abusing offenders through comprehensive supervision, drug testing, treatment services, immediate sanctions, and incentives.
Drug courts feature extensive interaction between the judge and the offender and often involve the offender’s family and community. Successful completion of the drug court program results in dismissal of the charges (pretrial diversion) or satisfaction or reduction of the sentence (post-trial diversion or intensive probation). More than just another type of court, drug courts represent a fundamental shift from incarceration as the primary means of punishing minor drug offenses to mandatory treatment for those offenders willing to take responsibility for their actions, using prison only as leverage to ensure compliance. The U.S. Department of Justice has outlined the ten key components of drug court programs.
Who Is Eligible for a Drug Court?
Traditionally, only individuals charged with nonviolent drug offenses may be diverted from trial in a regular criminal court to a drug court, although some drug courts in other states have begun including offenders who committed property crimes to obtain funds to support a drug habit. The most well-known drug court in Texas is a pretrial diversion program overseen by Dallas Judge John Creuzot, which limits eligibility to first-time minor drug offenders willing to follow the stringent regime of treatment, counseling, and testing. While participation is voluntary, Judge Creuzot informs prospective participants that they cannot opt out once they enroll.
Where Are Drug Courts Used in Texas?
The 77th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1287, authorizing counties to create drug courts and requiring courts in counties with populations over 550,000.
This includes Bexar, Collin, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hidalgo, Tarrant, and Travis counties. While Texas only had three drug courts in 2002, as of September 29, 2005, Texas had 44 drug courts with another 20 in the planning stages, including adult, juvenile, family, DWI/ DUI, and tribal drug courts.
Nationally, there are over 1,600 drug courts, indicating that Texas has substantially fewer drug courts per capita than other states.
The 79th Legislature passed an overhaul of the probation system, HB 2193, which would have required counties with more than 200,000 people to establish a drug court, but only if state or federal funding was available. The bill would have also imposed a $10 court fee on alcohol and drug offenses to fund drug courts. Governor Rick Perry vetoed HB 2193 for reasons unrelated to the provisions on drug courts.
Do Drug Courts Work?
Drug courts are reducing recidivism both in Texas and throughout the nation. Texas offenders completing drug court programs have a 28.5 percent re-arrest rate compared to 58.5 percent in the control group. Even including those offenders who failed to successfully complete the drug court program, the re-arrest rate is 40.5 percent. Similarly, the incarceration rate of offenders who complete drug court programs is only 3.4 percent after three years compared with 12.0 percent for all drug court participants and 26.6 percent for the control group.
The recidivism rate of participants in Judge Creuzot’s drug court is 17 percent compared to 61 percent in the control group. Other Texas drug courts have been nearly as successful. Jefferson County drug courts graduates have a re-arrest rate of 24.5 percent compared to 43.7 percent for non-participants while Travis County drug courts have a re-arrest rate of 24.5 percent versus 45.5 percent for non-participants. Nationally, the average recidivism rate for drug court graduates is between 4 percent and 29 percent as compared to 48 percent for the control group. A survey of 17,000 annual drug court graduates nationwide found that recidivism rates for drug court participants one year after graduation is only 16.5 percent and 27.5 percent after two years. Some 71 percent of all offenders entering drug courts since 1989 have either successfully completed their drug court program or are currently participating.
In addition to reducing recidivism, drug courts keep families together and relieve burdens on the social service system, since offenders diverted from prison are often primary breadwinners. For example, research shows drug courts reduce utilization of the strained foster care system. Also, by enabling participants to avoid a criminal record, pretrial diversion drug courts promote employment, as participants can truthfully state they have not been criminally convicted.
Do Drug Courts Save Money?
A comprehensive drug court program typically costs between $2,500 and $4,000 annually for each offender. By comparison, the annual cost per Texas prison inmate is more than $16,000, not including initial construction costs. A study of a drug court in Portland, Oregon found $5,071 per inmate savings including victimization costs, due to reduced rates of drug use and recidivism.
The Maricopa County, Arizona drug court saves more than $600,000 annually in pretrial expenses because the drug court procedure combines arraignment, change of plea, and sentencing in one hearing held within 14 days of arrest, eliminating multiple court hearings, court-appointed counsel, police interviews, trials, and presentence reports.
Do We Need More Drug Courts?
Given that some 21.7 percent of Texas prisoners, which amounts to 32,550 inmates, are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses, many more drug courts could be utilized. The primary reason Texas does not have more drug courts is that state funding is limited to $750,000 plus $3 million available through the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.
Even in the 16 Texas counties that have drug courts, their capacity is less than 5 percent of those arrested for drug possession. In addition to creating more drug courts in major counties, regional drug courts could serve multiple, smaller counties. Such courts could be placed under the 121 Community Supervision and Corrections Districts (CSCDs) that oversee adult probation departments.
How Do We Pay for More Drug Courts?
While drug courts promise substantial savings in incarceration costs for the charged offense as well as long-term savings from reduced recidivism, initial state outlays are needed to increase the number of drug courts. Regular probation costs a tenth of prison, but drug courts cost approximately 20 to 30 percent of prison because of the closer supervision and treatment involved. By redirecting some funds that would otherwise eventually go to prison construction to programs such as drug courts, substantial savings can be realized. If policies are not changed to reduce prison inflows, House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden estimates that another 14,000 prison beds will be needed by 2010, as prisons are now at capacity. Allocating these beds equally among units of varying security levels, the state would incur prison construction costs of $1.24 billion over the next several years.
When You're Ready for Treatment
Getting Treatment in Texas can be a complicated experience, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re getting yourself into. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you can give yourself, and your future, a chance to start again with a clear mind and a personalized plan to help you retrain your thoughts and turn those thoughts into healthy actions to become a better you.
The Treatment Process
When beginning to investigate rehab, a variety of words will appear in the literature about options and in personal conversations with representatives. Assessment is often the starting place after having self-identified or being identified as potentially needing rehab. While assessment varies based on the facility and their approach, as a general rule several individuals with unique focus areas (i.e. social worker, psychologist, nurse, etc.) will work together to understand each potential clients’ circumstances. The client will provide information via questionnaires and conversation, as well as often being asked for a urine and hair sample. This process serves to help the treatment center better understand whether the client is dealing with an actual addiction to said substance, and if so what the depth of their addiction may be. Furthermore, it allows specialists the opportunity to see if their are co-occurring conditions, be they psychological or environmental, at the time of admission. Whatever conditions are discovered provide better insight into the addiction itself and are also often able to be simultaneously treated.
During this phase of interaction with the potential treatment center, the service provider works with the client to map out what a treatment plan would look like, and seeks to name the ways in which life will change for that individual once they enter into rehab. In doing so, they are able to identify potential barriers to the treatment process, as well as struggles that may be specific to that individual. Since the life of an addict is often surrounded by a web of uncertainty, it can be invaluable to have the stability provided in a plan of treatment. However, even in its positive form, it is still a tough transition, and working with the facility to find the best program and fit is vital.
While a client may learn some about a facility during the pre-intake, it remains very important for the client to find the rehab facility that best fits their needs and liking. Not only does the initial impression need to be positive, but the ongoing climate of the facility needs to be good enough to ensure retention and a level of change occurring in the patient so that they do not simply leave the program. Since rehabilitation as an overall process differs from detox in its focus on lifestyle and thought pattern change and overall transformation, the intake process is more of a partnership with the rehab facility, whether it is self-initiated or proposed by a family member or close friend. Paperwork, urine samples, and breathalyzer all generally occur during this stage.
Detox can be a step in a rehabilitation center, and it can be a separate process completely, depending on the approach of the providers. In its most basic form however, detox is the withdrawal and cleansing of the body from the drug. It can be a very difficult process as the body craves the drug and has repeated visceral reactions to not having said drug that often resemble the symptoms of having the flu. However, this experience is made much more pleasant by the trained stuff able to assist the patient during the process. Centers are able to help monitor the physical process and do their best to aid in the transition for the client.
Inpatient Treatment Services
One of the main benefits of inpatient treatment, or treatment within a facility that offers around the clock care and trained staff to assist with all aspects of the transition, is that the friend groups, stress points, and triggers to use are temporarily removed as one is isolated from the outside world. RTC tends to be focused on individuals who have been struggling with addiction for an extended period of time or who may have been battling another co-occurring issue. PHP (partial hospitalization) allows for the freedom of not needing to stay the night, and yet having more intensive care during the daytime hours than at normal outpatient treatment. The third option, IOP, focuses more on illnesses such as eating disorders and depression, while also treating addiction in a subtle way so that the client is able to go about their work or family life in as normal a routine as possible.
When an addict has a community supporting them and the means to start replenishing the life they diminished during their drug use, outpatient treatment is often a good option. This format often requires meeting with a therapist during the week who specializes in addiction counseling, and following their advice along with the advice of a medical provider.
Whatever route an individual decides to follow when seeking help, it is vital that an aftercare plan is in place for the time period when the initial treatment has ended. Even after returning to society or passing benchmarks for sobriety, triggers such as lifestyle changes may still lead to a relapse. Having an aftercare plan in place helps ensure the recovery will truly be long lasting. Aftercare plans in which individuals “check in” and receive remedial work/information are very common. However, for individuals needing more than occasional realignment, options such as sober living communities exist, where people trying to stay clean live and work together and follow a set of house standards and rules.
Outpatient treatment is often preferred when one has substantial duties in their outside environment, such as school or family. In fact, family and friend group therapy is often included in this option, which is quite flexible in its scheduling. Outpatient treatment has proven to be very effective for those with underlying causes for their addiction, such as eating disorders, to grasp the root of their substance-related issues in a more relaxed setting among familiar support systems.
As an outpatient, you are not enmeshed in a structured environment, you live at home and you are not under constant supervision.
However, outpatient treatment is no less important or helpful than inpatient treatment. Though the scheduling of your appointments may be flexible, you still need to commit to the time. If you miss one appointment, you will likely miss another.
Ask yourself if you are responsible enough for an outpatient program. If you are, and you maintain your treatment, the rewards can be innumerable.
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment are comprehensive approaches to wellness. You will face temptations in both but as long as you remain responsible, you will also learn specific strategies as to how to deal with them. It is up to you to take advantage of those lessons.
Click the link to learn more about the differences between Inpatient vs. Outpatient
Aftercare and Sober Living
Sober living may be the final step in your formal treatment plan before returning home, but treatment never really ends. Sober living houses provide the interim environment between rehab and mainstreaming back to your natural environment. The reason for the initial formation of sober houses was simple: a person in recovery frequently needed a safe and supportive place to stay, during the vulnerability of early recovery, prior to returning home.
Sober houses are also highly-structured, and most residents are referred to a sober living environment from a rehab center. Requirements and rules are strict, and they usually include:
- No drugs or alcohol on the premises;
- No violence;
- No overnight or sleepover guests, not even family;
- Commitment to random drug testing;
- Involvement in a community-related program;
- Acceptance by a peer group;
- Acceptance of advice from treatment professionals;
- Respect for the rules of the house;
- No swearing;
- No stealing;
- No sexual activity between residents;
- As part of a recovering community, if you see or hear any resident breaking the rules of the community, they must be reported immediately to appropriate staff;
- Anyone on prescribed medication must inform the house manager upon admittance;
- Residents must attend all sober house meetings;
- Residents must submit to drug and/or alcohol tests upon request;
- Rooms must be clean at all times;
- Chores must be completed without argument;
- Curfew must be respected;
- Client must attend all therapy sessions, group or individual.
Many of the above rules are enforced with a Zero Tolerance Policy. Meaning, if any of these rules are broken even once, you risk being kicked out of your sober living home. If you had experienced structure during your prior treatment to this point, you should be in good shape.
A benefit of many sober houses is that staff frequently are former addicts themselves. This is a benefit for two primary reasons: 1) They understand the struggle, and 2) They are living examples of former addicts who have successfully completed treatment and are now giving back. Some of these former addicts work on salary, and some happily volunteer their time.
Sober houses are most successful when utilized (in conjunction with a formal treatment plan) for a designated period of time. Do not expect all residents to attain equal success during this stage. You will likely come to know your peers through intensive group counseling. You will also undergo one-on-one therapy, but in the group setting you will notice your peers’ various stages of recovery. You will form opinions but always remind yourself that you are there for reason.
And that reason is to take care of you.
An important note: Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction does not end after your formal treatment plan. Addiction is, indeed, incurable; however, addiction can be arrested and remain that way with prudent post-sober house, or aftercare, strategies. Committing to a further aftercare program, for example, reduces the probability of relapse and helps keep you connected to drug and alcohol counselors and peers who are going through, or have gone through, similar experiences. With increased awareness comes a better understanding of life’s stressors and how best to deal with them.
Nothing has proven to be a more successful method of care in reducing the risk of destructive behavior than ongoing education and awareness.