Addiction Problems and the Search for Solutions in Odessa, Texas
Located at the spot where Central Texas moves into the short arm of West Texas, Odessa began as a railroad camp. It got its name, it’s said, from a Native American princess who wandered by one day, but most insist that Odessa was named after the city in the Ukraine.
In the mid-19th century the Odessa Land and Townsite Company launched a promotion to urge people to settle there, and settle they did. By 1891 the town was designated the county seat of Ector County. Following a small oil boom in 1927 it became incorporated into a city that grew and prospered as more oil wells were discovered and pressed into service. In 2016 the population was approximately 117,871
Because the city has long depended on the petroleum business its economy has been borne along by fluctuations in oil markets—and by the fact that oil isn’t a renewable resource. Odessa officials, elected or not, have for years been giving their collective minds to how the city might support itself once the oil stops flowing
At the moment the city doesn’t appear to be suffering financially. In recent years the unemployment rate has been lower than the national average. The median household income in 2016 was more than $56,000 (it was around $31,000 in the year 2000), which is close to the national median. The number of persons living in poverty is lower than the national average.
The Two Sides of Extra Coin
Prosperity is always welcome, but the downside of more money sometimes means more money for alcohol and drugs. Last October an Odessa police officer said he believed the recent upsurge in methamphetamine on the streets had come as a result of Odessa’s burgeoning economy. The sad story is that people with disposable income might buy drugs as recreational luxuries, but when addiction takes hold that disposable income suddenly isn’t enough, and getting the drug becomes more important than finding food, shelter, and clothing.
Workers in the West Texas oil patch are especially vulnerable to the temptations of alcohol and narcotics. Jobs in the field pay well, but hours are long and sometimes workers turn to illegal substances to keep awake and alert and then to help them unwind when the work day ends. Truck drivers and heavy machine operators find ways to beat the drug tests and travel together to keep each other from going off the road from exhaustion on long trips. The highly paid oil workers have no problem coming up with cash for drugs, even though drugs delivered to their remote locations can cost up to three times as much as in in other states.
Cocaine is popular in the oil patch, and it’s usually readily available, but the most abused drug in West Texas may well be the stimulant methamphetamine (or crystal meth), which some field workers take to help them endure the long hours working in the heat. It appears that the more drilling activity West Texas undertakes, the more the area is inundated with crystal meth, delivered by Mexican cartels. The number of workers failing the drug tests has proven to be a bit of a labor resource crisis, and of those who pass, there’s no guarantee that they haven’t found some way to foil the tests.
Workers in addiction recovery in Odessa are often advised that if they want to stay clean, working in the oil patch is out.
Suing the Opioid Czars
The opioid crisis hasn’t bypassed Odessa either. And across the state, lawyers are offering to help counties bring legal action against pharmaceutical companies for the costs of opioid addiction to their inhabitants and public services organizations. The allegation is that the pharmaceutical companies played up the questionable benefits of the opioids while minimizing their dangers, leading them to be overprescribed, occasionally to fraudulent patients who sold their extra pills on the street.
The term “opioids” refers to both illegal (heroin) and prescription (fentanyl, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, etc.) drugs, although even prescription drugs can be abused if they haven’t honestly been prescribed for a patient. Both categories have been responsible for over 60 percent of overdose deaths in the country, and the number of overdose deaths has quadrupled in the last 20 years.
As for Texas, eight percent of those prescribed opioids were misusing (i.e. abusing) them. This is nearly twice the national average.
A Dubious Distinction
Odessa has been ranked as one of the 15 most alcohol-addicted cities in America. Nearly a third of those seeking recovery treatment here began their addiction odyssey with alcohol.
In 2013 the number of deaths in Texas due to drunk driving was the highest in the U.S. and alcohol played a role in 39.5 percent of all traffic accident fatalities.
The risk of dangerous binge drinking is great among college students, who often see drinking as a normal part of college life and greatly underestimate the danger to their health and safety.
Underage adolescents aren’t far behind in engaging in behaviors like drinking that pose a broad spectrum of risks including driving accidents, dangerous sexual activity, and alcohol poisoning.
Let us help you get past your pain!
If you’re in thrall to a controlled substance in Odessa, Texas, allow us to encourage and help you find the resources you need to move on to real living—the way you were meant to live. Yes, recovery is tough, but the alternative is to live with a life-threatening illness (addiction) which, if it lets you survive, will bring you a mountain of pain. Accept some pain and discomfort now to give yourself the gift of a new life.
“If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best way possible.”
Texan Penalties for Possession and Sales
Texas is tough on drug dealers and users. Manufacturing or distributing drugs can get you a minimum punishment of up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Simple possession can get you up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Maximum punishments are significantly higher.
Harsh Marijuana Laws
Even getting caught with marijuana comes at a very high cost. Texas has passed a medical marijuana law, but the program of implementation is by most reports incomplete, with many obstacles delaying delivery.
To add the the conundrum, only one malady— intractable epilepsy— is eligible to receive the permit for use (as opposed to a half dozen or more eligible illnesses in other states where medical cannabis is legal). As for Texans themselves, 50 percent are against legalizing marijuana and 46 percent are for it, while 57 percent support greater leniency for those caught with less than an ounce of the herb.
The strictness of Texan laws against marijuana has lately been criticized for costing more to implement than it brings in public benefits. There is also concern that strict marijuana laws are allowing larger amounts of methamphetamine to be smuggled into Texas; meth, having little odor, is harder for sniffer dogs to track and thus easier to get across the border.
Harm Reduction: keeping addicts alive until they can get clean
The Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, which serves Odessa as part of the region, is putting in place strategies for delivering Narcan (sometimes going by its generic name Naloxone) to first responders and to use in cases.
State officials are offering training in how to use the drug. The drug Narcan is delivered as a preloaded shot of nasal spray or delivered with a syringe. For an hour or more Narcan can switch off the neural receptors that uptake opioids, giving the overdose victim time to receive emergency care. Since 2016 Texans have been able to buy Narcan at Walgreens drug stores without a prescription, enabling friends and family members to keep doses handy if they know someone who is a abusing opioids or even in cases where opioids are being used with legitimate prescriptions, as even these can overdose. The cost is covered by Medicaid
Sterile syringes: Disease preventatives and portals to treatment resource
It’s still illegal in Texas to own syringes for the purpose of injecting illegal drugs, but the nonprofit organization The Austin Harm Reduction Coalition is showing the rest of Texas just how valuable such a service can be in preventing the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Even though the legal status of this initiative is blurry, the Austin Police have so far left it alone, perhaps largely due to the van’s brief stops in hidden areas.
Several smaller syringe exchange programs operate covertly throughout the state, hoping to avoid prosecution until sterile syringe exchanges become legal. They also distribute Narcan and test strips to help clients test their heroin for fentanyl, a powerful drug which is often fatal when added to heroin.
An important function of these programs is that they can serve as effective points of entry for addicts looking for recovery resources.
Drug Courts in Odessa?
Bill 1287 in 2001 mandated that all Texas counties with populations of 550,000 or more had to establish drug courts, an alternate to sentencing designed to prevent recidivism by drug addicts by treating the addiction itself instead of repeatedly incarcerating those who commit crimes to support their addictions. These types of programs have had great success in the rest of the country, reducing recidivism and helping offenders avoid prison sentences and go on to lead constructive, law-abiding lives.
All the mandated counties have drug courts, as do several non-mandated counties. Ector County, where Odessa is the county seat, still doesn’t have a drug court.
Addiction Recovery in Odessa
Treatment offered in Odessa includes inpatient residential treatments—24 hour a day care in a live-in center—as well as outpatient services, usually consisting of a few hours at a clinic once or twice a week.
Outpatient programs, not often seen as effective recovery solutions in themselves, are more successful as follow-ups to long term residential inpatient treatment.
Before being admitted to a treatment program a patient must be examined by a medical professional to ensure that they’re mentally and physically ready to undergo treatment, and that in fact they are suffering from an addiction serious enough to need treatment. This usually takes place in an interview no longer than half an hour, but the doctor may recommend another more detailed interview.
At this stage the patient is admitted to the facility. Payment arrangements are made and the patient is advised as to what possessions they can bring and cannot bring into the facility. They’re told in clear terms what will be expected of them and encouraged to cooperate with all aspects of the program in order to ensure recovery and prevent relapse later on. The patient may be given an orientation session to get them used to the residential facility.
If the patient hasn’t already undergone detox, they must do so now. The detox—or detoxification—period is the time during which the patient is slowly weaned off the drug. Because of the pain and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms this must be carried out in a safe environment and supervised by medical personnel, and can take from three to 30 days. Most detox programs also administer medication to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. A longer detox period will also provide education and counseling to help the addict stay clean upon leaving the facility.
No treatment program can succeed if the patient still has drugs in their system or continues to use drugs in secret, which is why patients must submit to regular drug testing the treatment phase
Just as there can be no successful treatment without an initial detox, it’s not likely that detox without further treatment will be enough to prevent the addict from relapsing. Moreover, releasing the addict directly after detox can be dangerous, as their tolerance has dropped while their dosage expectations have probably remained the same; a dosage that got them high just prior to detox may kill them if taken directly afterwards.
Below are just a few of the treatment approaches used in Odessa, either alone or in combination:
- Contingency Management (CM): A rewards system encouraging abstinence behaviors
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Teaching patients how to avoid the kind of thoughts that lead to substance abuse
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): Teaching patients how to motivate themselves to commit to abstinence
- Community Reinforcement Approach: Used in outpatient programs and involving counselling, drug testing, medication, and rewards voucher
Normally while the patient is still in treatment they’re encouraged to develop a program for how they will live once they leave the facility, having graduated from the program. This means establishing a network of support outside the facility and making the life changes necessary to keep from succumbing once more to the triggers and temptations that got them addicted in the first place. Often links to 12-step groups, including finding a sponsor, within the same community are set up while the addict is still undergoing inpatient care.
Building a Better Life
If you’ve lost hope that you’ll ever get the help you need to recover, it’s time to start hoping—and believing—that the right help is available to help you free yourself from the tyranny of your addiction, allowing you to build a whole new life for yourself. Call us today and let us guide you through the resources available to you in Odessa!
We’re saying that the way people sustain ongoing, long-term change is through building a better life in ways that matter to them as individuals.
~ Nicole Kosanke, PhD