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Drugs and Treatment in Austin, Texas

Austin is the capital state of Texas in the United States. According to Slate Magazine it is also the 11th most populated city in the US and 4th most populated city in Texas. The 2016 Census Bureau states that the population of Austin is at an estimated 947,890. The most popular employment categories include government employees, musicians, technology workers, and blue-collar workers.

The city is famous for its many musicians and music venues, with its official slogan being “The Live Musical Capital of the World”. In 2012, the FBI ranked Austin the second safest major city of the United States. Austin’s unemployment rates are at a low 2.9% compared to surrounding towns and cities such as Bastrop (4.1%) and Buda (3.6%). The annual household income of Austin residents is $55,216.

Although Austin is a well-reputed city, its drug habits are not to be ignored. According to a 2016 substance abuse trends report released by the National Drug early Warning System, drugs that are being used in Austin include benzodiazepine, methamphetamine, cannabis, heroin, synthetics, and PCP. The report also states that the number of benzodiazepine-associated deaths have increased, as well as heroin-related deaths and overdoses. 

The most popular drug in Austin is methamphetamine, with indicators of usage increasing since the pseudo-ephedrine ban in 2007. The DEA reported methamphetamine seizures to have increased by 37% between 2013 and 2015. Additionally, Austin is reported to be on the list of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas by the DEA.

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If you live in Austin, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

The Most Commonly Abused Substance In Austin

Methamphetamine and amphetamine use was reported at an all time high in 2015. Because of the ban on pseudoephedrine, cooks began to use different ingredients to make methamphetamine since 2016. Methamphetamine is a threat across the United States but is especially warned by the DEA to be the #1 threat in Texas as well as Atlanta and Los Angeles. The routes of admission include smoking, injecting, and inhaling, with smoking being the most popular.

The ingredient replacing pseudo-ephedrine is referred to as P2P (or phenyl-2-propanone) increases the potency of methamphetamine and can enhance user dependence. In 2016, the number of both methamphetamine-related overdoses and admissions to treatment programs have increased by 50%. This means that methamphetamine could be replacing heroin in the major cities of Texas as the residents’ drug of choice.

Alongside the methamphetamine epidemic in Austin is the growing HIV/AIDS problem, the two of which are intertwining. This is becoming a more prominent cause for alarm especially for young men who are having sexual intercourse with other men. A study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention states that the number of men who have sex with men and methamphetamine use have proportionally increased between 2011 and 2016. HIV/AIDS outreach workers have reported that methamphetamine consumption encourages unprotected sex among young males who have sex with males.

15.8% of individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse reported methamphetamine as their primary drug of choice. 6,219 Texans were admitted into treatment centres for methamphetamine use in 2014, a shockingly high increase from 590 in 2013. Research professor, Jane Maxwell states that the increase in popularity could be a consequence of a new drug route. Methamphetamine was previously brought to Texas from California but after the pseudoephedrine ban, the drug is now being brought in through Mexico, where P2P is easily accessible.

Methamphetamine remains the major drug threat in Texas, according to 18 DEA offices across the state. 715 methamphetamine-related deaths were recorded in the 2017 report by Maxwell in comparison to 539 heroin-related deaths.

Herion Abuse

Opioids are no doubt the most dangerous and widely used substance across the United States. A simple Google search for “Austin drug abuse” will return you countless studies, news articles, and government reports on the heroin epidemic that has taken over Austin. A report by the National Drug Early Warning System reports the users of heroin in Austin to be younger and more likely to be European. The percentage of European patients admitted into treatment centres in 2015 increased by 23% to 2016. Europeans are the predominant cultural group being treated for heroin, followed by Hispanic, and African American. The average age of patients who experienced heroin-related deaths decreased from 40 years old in 2008 to 34 years old in 2016.

There are two main types of heroin currently on the streets of Austin – Mexican black tar and powdered brown. Although Texas has not suffered as severely as the rest of the country, this is only because the Mexican Black Tar heroin in Texas can not be easily mixed with fentanyl, decreasing its purity by 30% in comparison with Mexican-South American heroin found in Northeast American states. However, fentanyl has found its way into other opioids instead of heroin which is an additional cause for concern.

An investigative article published by KXan Investigates reports that the fentanyl crisis is heading towards Texas and people aren’t paying enough attention. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has discovered an increase in the Northwest and Midwest, heading in the direction of Texas. Fentanyl is a lethal drug that can cause fatality in small doses. The DEA claims it to be 60 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Dr. Ryan Morrissey, medical director of Central Texas Poison Centre states that fentanyl is a drug killing at a rate which the United States has never seen any other drug kill before.

Addiction Treatment

If you’re struggling with addiction, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice and help. There are many free and paid treatment centers across Austin – over 80 options. Have a look around both online and in person to find the treatment centre that would be the best option for you. Most treatment centers operate similarly but some centers specialize in different areas. It’s important to find one where you’re most comfortable and feel would most benefit you.

Drug addiction is when an individual is relentless and uncontrollable in their drug seeking ways even when there are negative consequences. The first few times taking drugs may be voluntary but repeated drug use can result an inability to practice self-control and resist the urge to take drugs again. If this sounds like you and you’d like to take the first step in rehabilitating yourself, read on.

The next part of this article will cover the assessment process, intake, detoxification, treatment options (inpatient and outpatient), aftercare, and sober living.

Assessment

Prior to being admitted into a treatment centre, the individual must show signs of addiction or be positively tested before taking an addiction assessment. It is recommended that you contact a medical professional if you think you are suffering from drug addiction, so they can properly assess you. This assessment is crucial in determining the type of treatment you will receive, depending on the substance(s) being treated for, length of addiction, health condition, and whether there are co-occurring conditions.

Note that all information provided to the medical professional will be kept confidential and will only be used towards designing your treatment plan. It’s normal for some individuals to feel ashamed or guilty about their addiction and may want to lie about the amount of drugs they take or length of time they’ve taken it for. However, it’s crucial to tell the truth so that a treatment plan can be developed that will best suit the individual’s condition. If they lie about your addiction, they are setting themselves back from successful rehabilitation from the beginning which can seriously impact their development.

A variety of different medical professionals can perform an assessment; doctors, nurses, psychologists, or counsellors. In some cases, patients may be assessed by more than one person. This is to confirm their diagnosis and ensure they have designed the best treatment plan for the individual. At this stage, the patient has the right to refuse further treatment and will only be given a light intervention and follow up with their healthcare provider as needed. However, if they decide to go through with the rehabilitation treatment, they can expect to be admitted to a rehab centre, detoxification course, or sober house until they are sober.

Rehab Center Intake

The intake, or first day of rehab, is often the easiest for patients. It’s where they get to know their surroundings, where everything is located, and decide whether it’s the right place for them. During intake, the medical staff will conduct a further interview with them before officially admitting the patient into the facility. The interviewer will most likely be a specialist with extensive experience in addiction treatment to correctly evaluate the individual. The patient will be required to provide further medical information and likely undergo a physical examination.

Being admitted into a rehabilitation centre can be uncomfortable for some patients so after the interview, the patient will be provided with their personal timetable and information sheets about the centre. The information may include history of the centre, testimonials, and goals which may help the patient feel more confident in the centre’s ability to help rehabilitate them and provide further reassurance.

The information collected from the intake will be used by the medical staff to track the patient’s process. Medical practitioners will refer back to this information to determine how well they’re doing in their treatment programme and whether any changes should be made if they aren’t making much progress.

Detoxification

Detoxification is the first step after a patient has been admitted into a treatment center. Some addicts will choose to only undergo detoxification without other treatment (e.g. group therapy, counselling). It is recommended that the individual participates in the entire course of treatment as detoxification alone can be less effective and has a higher percentage of relapse rates.

Detoxification under professional medical supervision is much safer and more effective than if an individual were to undergo the process by themselves at home. The goal of this step is to safely and comfortably help the addict heal after long-term use of drugs.

The first few days may feel extremely uncomfortable to the patient and is often considered the hardest step toward sobriety. Medical staff will constantly be available throughout this process to aid and monitor the patient. The patient may show the following withdrawal symptoms within the first few hours:

  • Violence
  • Psychosis
  • Medical illness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Increased sensitivity to pain

On rare occasions, detoxification can lead to life-threatening complications that require immediate medical attention. For this reason, it’s best to attempt detoxification under the supervision and guidance of a professional instead of attempting it alone.

Depending on the drug and length of use, the period of detoxification can vary as well as the method of detoxification. The most common methods are cold turkey, short-term medicated, and long-term medicated. Some individuals will be prescribed medications either short-term or long-term to aid with their withdrawal symptoms. The type of medication will again vary depending on the type of drug and the individual.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

Treatment Options

Inpatient treatment (RTC)

This type of treatment involves the individual staying at a 24-hour care at live-in facilities. The patient will receive both psychological and physical health treatment for up to several months (depending on the individual needs of each patient). The length of stay can be open-ended, meaning the patient’s stay can be extended if their improvement slows down or halts. One important difference between inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment is the degree of medical attention provided to the individual. In more serious cases of addiction, inpatient treatment is highly recommended.

Inpatient treatment is more effective when recovering from substance abuse and addiction, however, it can be expensive. Some inpatient treatment centres provide payment plans or government funding so it’s important for the individual to research different options and choose one that’s most suited to their financial situation.

These types of treatment centres are often referred to as residential treatment centres, or rehab. Several studies have shown that inpatient treatment is the most effective in comparison to other methods, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)

Partial hospitalization programs provide a relatively intense type of outpatient treatment. It provides patients with the freedom to return home at the end of the day after treatment. This level of care gives the individual a secure, structured environment without a high level of disruption to their day-to-day routine. Many PHPs will provide the patient with a part-time or full-time option depending on their individual needs.

This type of treatment is recommended for individuals who have a higher level of control over their compulsions and can maintain their independence without 24-hour supervision. Many addicts will opt partial hospitalization treatment as a transitional step between inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Mental health counselling is the focus of centres providing this type of treatment. Depending on the individual needs of each patient, the types of treatment provided include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Social skills therapy
  • Medication
  • Behavioural therapy

The main difference between partial hospitalization treatment and other methods is that PHP provides patients with a balance between their personal lives and effective management of their addiction. The purpose of a PHP is to aid patients that are struggling more with managing the psychological aspects of addiction. Medication can be provided to patients but only in life-threatening situations.

Intensive outpatient program (IOP)

Intensive outpatient treatment, or an intensive outpatient program is recommended for individuals who can manage their addiction effectively and do not require medical supervision. This program is typically used by individuals who have successfully completed detoxification and are transitioning into aftercare.

This type of program is a part-time, yet intensive treatment option designed to accommodate to the patient’s personal and family life. It mainly focuses on group therapy but will also assign the patient with a personal therapist/counsellor to meet with on a weekly basis. The groups are small, usually limited to no more than 10 people, so each patient will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and be accommodated for.

IOPs are family-oriented therapy centres, meaning the patient’s family members are encouraged to be involved in the program to support them. The program will provide family members with relative information that will support the patient in their recovery.

Patients are generally required to attend at least 9 hours of therapy, but this can also vary according to individual needs of the patient. The types of therapy and services provided by in IOPs include:

  • Career counselling
  • Skill-building courses
  • Healthcare
  • Legal services
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

By addressing these aspects, the program can aid the patient in removing potential barriers that could stand in the way of effective recovery. This type of treatment is less expensive in comparison to others and make the occurrence of relapse less likely.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

Aftercare

Effective recovery from substance addiction doesn’t stop at the end of effectively completing a treatment program. Aftercare is considered a type of continuous treatment after inpatient or outpatient treatment. The period after completion of a treatment program is considered the most crucial, as advancements made by the individual are put to the test.

Aftercare can involve programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – groups that can provide on-going support for those in recovery.

The patient’s medical practitioner can prescribe aftercare that varies in length depending on their individual needs. The patient will benefit from attending aftercare to reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Relapse rates are at an estimated 40-60% after initial treatment according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Participation with AA or NA groups are encouraged, along with regular follow-up appointments with a hospital or clinic.

What happens after discharge?

Sober Living

Like aftercare, sober living is a step often used by individuals after an effective initial treatment. Sober living houses are facilities used as a transition between rehabilitation and living in mainstream society, however, it’s not a requirement for the individual to come from rehab. The individual can reside in a monitored and drug-free environment to eliminate triggers and relapse. Structured sober living environments benefit recovering addicts by implementing mandatory curfews, chores, and meetings.

Successfully retaining sobriety can require the individual to make changes in their personal lives. This includes a change of occupation, friend circles, friends, and even family members who could be a threat to their sobriety.

Sober living homes have shown an improved, sustainable recovery when used with an aftercare program such as AA or NA. In some sober living homes, medical professionals are available on-site, providing a more effective level of care. There are 37 sober living homes in Austin.

Many sober living homes are free, but some can charge a fee. This is especially true for homes that have medical professionals on-site. It’s recommended for the individual to conduct prior research before selecting a sober living home for themselves and choose one best suited to their needs and financial situation.

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