Understanding San Antonio's Drug Abuse and Addiction Epidemic
San Antonio is considered the second most populous city in the state of Texas. It has an estimated population of 1.493 million people. The city has a median household income of $46,317 and an unemployment rate of 3.80%. It is quite popular for having colonial landmarks, cowboys and a serene environment ideal for holiday getaways. Despite these positive attributes the city is faced with a substance abuse and addiction epidemic of unprecedented proportions.
According to official reports drug hauls per year are estimated to be 795,391 pounds of marijuana, 7,895 pounds of cocaine, 493 pounds methamphetamine and 110 pounds of heroin. There are also other substances that are making their way through and into the city. What makes it an ideal trafficking point and market is its population density, proximity to the Mexican border, lax security and an extensive road network.
Over the past couple of years various organs of the state have tried to curtail the supply of drugs into the city by initiating stringent security measures. But these still fall short of expectations. Learning institutions, religious and community based organizations have also played a part in creating awareness on the dangers of drug abuse. While these initiatives seem to be providing hope for the city’s future there remains a need to manage the effects of drugs abuse especially on addicts and their loved ones.
Most Commonly Abused Drugs in San Antonio
This substance is available as an odorless white powder. Crystal meth is available in the form of chunky crystals that look like pieces of ice. Powder meth may be available in a variety of other colors including pink, orange, yellow-gray and brown. The substance dissolves quickly when put in water or alcohol. It is bitter when tasted. In certain cases it may be available in the form of a pill. Crystal meth is usually smoked while powder meth is taken through a variety of ways including injecting into the veins, inhaling as vapor, snorting and smoking. Common street names for this substance include ventana, crypto, fast, speed, wash, hot ice, glass, ice, chalk and brown.
It is illegal to use, sell or traffic methamphetamine within the state of Texas. Anyone found in possession of less than a gram of this substance can be sentenced to a jail term of up to two years. Individuals found in possession of more than a gram of meth can get a jail term of more than two years. Selling and trafficking of this substance may attract a more severe penalty. It is not only these laws that residents of San Antonio should be worried about. The effects of using this substance is known to produce some of the most destructive effects as noted below.
- Meth can cause damage to the brain
- Damages tissues in the nose when sniffed
- Increases chances of getting infections and diseases when injected
- Leads to breaking of social ties and professional relations
- May cause dependence and addiction
- Damages internal body organs such as the kidney
- May cause health complications for newborn babies if the mother was using
- Leads to extreme malnutrition and weight loss
- Can cause respiratory problems for those who smoke
- Causes permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain
- May cause death due to overdose or poisoning
While it is legally acceptable for individuals over the age of 21 to drink alcohol it still remains one of the most destructive of substances in San Antonio. Not only are teens getting a hold of the drink with utmost ease it is also leading to addiction to the adult population. A particularly worrying trend among adults is binge drinking. This refers to a situation where men take more than 5 drinks while women take more than 4 within a span of 2 hours only. The body is unable to get rid of the toxic effects of alcohol within such a short time which is why it usually ends up hurting people instead of providing pleasurable effects. Some common street names for alcohol include hooch, hard stuff, brewski, suds, moonshine, draft and booze.
The short term effects of taking alcohol include slurred speech, impaired judgement, slowed reaction time, nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, blacking out and headaches. Most people ignore these effects because of the pleasurable effects they derive from drinking alcohol. The long term effects of drinking too much alcohol are scarier as noted below.
- Damages the liver
- May trigger several types of cancer including breast and colon
- Individuals that are intoxicated are at a greater risk of causing deadly accidents
- May lead to dependence and addiction
- May react negatively with other drugs in the system and cause death
- Damages brain cells over time
- Leads to breaking of social and professional links
- May lead to poor performance at work or school
- Causes financial problems
Marijuana is a substance made from the cannabis plant. It can be taken by smoking, brewing as tea and mixing with foods. It is important to note that out of every four people reporting to treatment centers because of drug related issues one is specifically affected by marijuana use. This substance is easily available within San Antonio which is why it is at the top of the most commonly abused substances. It also gets a lot of attention in music lyrics and movies which is another reason why it is widely popular. Individuals may refer to this substance in a number of ways including weed, pot, ganja, herb, bammy, chronic, reefer, aunt Mary and ashes.
People that take marijuana often experience a period of relaxation with all their troubles seeming to fade away. Individuals may also feel like they are drifting into a fantasy world where everything seems to be enjoyable. The high derived from using marijuana can last anywhere between 15 minutes to 3 hours depending on the mode of intake and the amount used. Below are some of the negative effects of long term use of marijuana.
- It multiplies the chances of suffering a stroke
- It lowers reaction time which means that individuals that use it are more likely to cause accidents
- Causes sex problems for men
- Individuals may become aggressive or violent
- Leads to poor performance at work and school
- Lowers the chances of getting hired for any work
- Causes hallucinations
- May become addictive
- Can damage the lungs and brain
- Users are 7 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases as compared to non-users
- Users tend to become antisocial or engage in unbecoming activities such as violent crime, stealing and lying
- Increases the chances of getting into financial difficulties
Heroin is an opioid drug that is known for its ability to get rid of physical pain. It can sometimes be referred to as diamorphine and may go by other street names including black tar, boy, snow, white ball, chiva, snowboy, black pearl, smack and skunk. The substance can be injected into the veins after dissolving in water or other types of liquids. Some individuals take heroin by smoking, snorting or inhaling in the form of vapor. Because of its pain numbing effects users may take this drug as a substitute to prescription medication. It is worth pointing out that it is relatively cheaper and easier to get on the streets as compared to prescription medications.
A survey conducted in the year 2013 showed that over 40,000 residents of San Antonio had used heroin at some point in their lifetime. This is a mind boggling statistic by any standards. While authorities have doubled their efforts in dealing with the deadly drug a lot still remains to be done. Indeed there are quite a number of emergency cases that involve heroin overdose or poisoning. Below are some of the negative effects of heroin use.
- It compromises the immune system rendering users more prone to disease and infections
- Higher chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
- Scarring of the skin or development of abscesses due to frequent injections
- Weaker muscle system/some individuals may suffer partial paralysis of the muscles
- Heroin often leads to extreme constipation
- A general weakness or sedation
- Poor performance at school or work
- Unethical behaviors such as lying stealing and having unprotected sex with strangers
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- A decline is sexual functioning
- Poor dental health including bad gums and decaying teeth
- Breaking of family and other social relations
- Financial problems
- Difficulty in processing thoughts or solving complex problems
- A lack of motivation
- Death due to overdose or drug poisoning
This substance is most commonly referred to as coke but may go by a number of other street names including flake, yeyo, base, rail, line, powder, dust, bump, baseball, nose candy, cola and big flakes. In a majority of cases it is available as a white powder. However, it may have color variations when adulterants such as sugar, caffeine, lactose and levamisole are added. Cocaine is a stimulant which means that it has properties that boost alertness and increase the amount of energy in a human being for a short period of time. It also gives a euphoric rush and high that can be characterized by heightened feelings of pleasure.
While statistics show that cocaine use in San Antonio has reduced over the past three years the number of people still battling addiction is cause for concern. It is worth noting that people who fall under the age of 34 are fond of smoking this substance while those above 34 inhale it in the form of vapor. Of course there are also individuals who snort or inject it into the veins. Below are some of the destructive effects of using this substance.
- Narrowing of the blood vessels
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythm which may sometimes lead to heart attacks
- Extreme paranoia enough to disrupt normal living
- Frequent headaches and seizures
- Nausea and abdominal pain
- Extreme levels of irritability and sleep disturbances
- Malnourishment and dehydration
- Development of psychosis
- Decreased sense of smell, nosebleeds, runny nose and hoarse throat
- Sudden death due to overdose
- Dependence and addiction
- Intestinal death or gangrene
- Deadly allergic reactions
- Weakening of the immune system
- Financial problems
- Lower chances of getting employed
- Damage to various internal organs
Why are San Antonio residents using drugs?
To deal with a problem it is prudent to first have a look at some of the things that may be causing it. Here are some of the reasons why people use substance.
Pain management – for a majority of opioid users the problem starts with a prescription for pain medications. Some of these drugs are quite powerful and quickly become addictive. It is after completion of a dosage that an individual realizes that he or she is craving for the drugs. This leads them to look for substitutes such as heroin and cocaine.
Difficult times – people that are going through general life problems and have no idea how to cope with stress may end up taking substance. These individuals look for something that can relax their minds and give them quick relief from the stresses of heartbreak, financial difficulty or chronic disease.
Fun – for a majority of young people the use of alcohol and drugs is generally based around having fun. They take marijuana, cocaine and alcohol to get high while going out to party or just hanging out in the neighborhood.
Experimenting – some people take drugs because of their curiosity. Having observed friends, relatives or their favorite celebrity high on substance they also wish to try it out for themselves.
Peer pressure – for a young person that is still not strongly anchored on moral values it is easy to be swayed or influenced by peer pressure. This is why a lot of teenagers fall into the trap of drug abuse, Most of these young people simply do drugs to impress their friends. The problem is that they end up getting hooked after a few times of use.
Boredom – when any human being is inactive for a prolonged period of time they tend to get bored and this can be one of the reasons why they start contemplating what to do. Unfortunately some people end up using drugs as a way of passing time and getting rid of their boredom.
Confidence boosting – individuals that are naturally shy or have a low self-esteem may have a difficult time interacting with peers of the opposite sex. It is because of such confidence issues that they may opt to use drugs as a way of enhancing their confidence.
To stay alert – some people use substance to help them stay awake. This is often the case for individuals that wish to beat a deadline for a school or work related assignment.
Risk and Preventive Factors for Drug Abuse
Risk factors are those things that make it more likely for an individual to use substance while preventive factors are things that make it harder for an individual to use substance.
Poverty – studies have shown that people that are poor are at a greater risk of substance use and abuse as compared to those who are financially independent. Poor people are unable to afford any legally accepted recreational substances which is why they opt for hard drugs. It is worth noting that drugs sold on the streets are highly addictive and dangerous to health. The preventive factors in this case include meaningful employment or poverty alleviation.
Lack of supervision – when young people are left on their own without proper supervision they tend to become curious about everything. It is this curiosity that may lead them down the path of drug use. To prevent unfortunate eventualities parents, guardians and teachers are advised to keep a close eye on their young ones.
Lack of law enforcement – areas that do not have strict adherence to laws or regulations are more likely to have a large number of substance abusers. All laws or regulations governing the use, possession or sale of drugs must be enforced and anyone that breaks them must be punished. This is why learning institution and workplaces must enforce their rules and regulations on drugs and alcohol.
Family of users – it is easier for people that live in a home of drug or alcohol users to start doing drugs as compared to those who live in a home of non-users. Young people from a family of users normalize the use of drugs making it easier for them to start.
Availability – when a particular drug is available in surplus more people will start using it as compared to a drug that is available in little amounts. This is why all efforts must be made to get rid of any illicit drugs and alcohol in school, at home or at the workplace.
Getting Help for a Drug User or Addict
In a lot of cases addicts are unaware of their condition. In their minds they believe they can quit using substance at any time they want. When confronted about the situation most of these people become angry or violent which is why it is advisable that loved ones approach the situation cautiously. To avoid worsening the situation it is wiser to seek professional help from a rehabilitation facility. Once you are in touch with a professional they will provide guidance on the best practices when it comes to intervention.
During intervention some or all of the family members may be involved in one way or another. The key is to help the drug user realize that what they are doing is harmful to their own person and the entire family as a whole. Successful intervention often leads to acceptance by the addict. This is key to initiating proper treatment. During intervention family members and friends are discouraged from confronting the substance user, arguing or showing any signs of disrespect. Keep in mind that for most drug addicts quitting is a dreadful prospect because of the withdrawal effects that ensue.
How Addiction Treatment Works
Dealing with urgent health issues – as soon as a patient is admitted into a rehabilitation facility doctors initiate a personalized treatment program aimed at stabilizing the patient’s physical health. This may involve administering of drugs to deal with infections, diseases or conditions such as weakened muscles and vessels.
Detoxification – another aspect of treatment that must be carried out involves detoxification. Here doctors bar the patient from using any toxic substances or drugs. Instead the patient is provided with alternative medications to help ease withdrawal effects. Proper dieting, exercise and massage therapy are among some of the things that may be recommended during this stage.
Counselling – because addiction does not only affect the physical health of the patient but also has a negative impact on thoughts and feelings it is important for counselling sessions to be scheduled. During sessions therapists allow patients to freely express their thoughts. As this happens the therapist identifies dangerous patterns or trigger points for substance abuse. It is after such sessions that therapists are able to recommend tips and techniques for dealing with issues that may be affecting the patient.
Group sessions – most treatment programs incorporate group sessions that make it possible for patients to listen to other people’s experiences while also allowing them to share their own. At the end of each session patients feel re-energized and inspired to pursue a better lifestyle. It is during such sessions that individuals develop relationships that may be key to staying sober after completion of the official treatment program.
Proper nutrition – as noted earlier most addicts tend to lose their appetite and this inevitably leads to loss of weight and malnutrition. To help these individuals recover nutritionists create a proper diet plan to restore health.
Aftercare – once a patient has completed the treatment program doctors run various assessment tests to ascertain progress and recovery. The patient is then discharged but on condition that they will adhere to the rules set out for staying sober. Some patients may be admitted into sober living homes to help ease the process of reintegration to the society.