The most notable drug issues in the Southwest region (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Hawaii) are the continued drug trafficking along the southwest border and the legalization of marijuana by Colorado in 2012.
Seizures of heroin and methamphetamine by border patrol agents along the United States-Mexico border are steadily increasing. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of heroin seizures at the U.S. Southwest border rose from 85 to 145, a 71 percent increase, and the number of methamphetamine seizures grew from 437 to 724, a 66 percent increase. The volume of heroin confiscated increased by nearly 50 percent and the volume of methamphetamine increased by 105 percent.
Most cocaine available in the United States continues to be produced in Colombia and along with Mexico-produced marijuana, is smuggled across the southwest border. In October 2013, more than eight tons of marijuana were seized linked to an elaborate cross-border tunnel. Since 2006, federal authorities have detected at least 80 cross-border smuggling tunnels, most of them in California and Arizona.
If you or a loved one are suffering from heroin, meth or marijuana addiction in the Southwest or if your drug of choice is cocaine, prescription painkillers or alcohol, now is the time for you to think about admission to a drug treatment program. The caring addiction specialists at recoveryas.com will help you find the treatment program that will lead you or your loved one back to a life of sobriety. Take the first step toward a fulfilling life by calling us toll free today at 1 (877) 968-6283.
Colorado legalizes cannabis
Significant drug news occurred in the Southwest in November 2012, when Colorado voters passed Constitutional Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational purposes for anyone over the age of 21. The amendment also allowed for licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation operations and edible manufacturers. The first stores officially opened on January 1, 2014.
Many of the states surrounding Colorado are far from happy with the prospect of marijuana being flown or driven out of the Centennial State and into their jurisdictions. Authorities from all of Colorado’s neighboring states—Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, none of which have legalized recreational marijuana—have issued warnings that anyone crossing their state lines with marijuana will face prosecution. The Attorneys General of two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, are suing Colorado in order to have the marijuana legalization policy declared unconstitutional.
At the same time, marijuana production is increasing at indoor and outdoor sites in the Los Angeles greater metropolitan area, partially because local criminals are exploiting California’s medical marijuana laws. With the 2014 passage of Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes, California is now the first state in the nation to downgrade those cases from felonies to misdemeanors.
Meth is a continuing threat
Methamphetamine seizures at U.S. ports of entry on the California-Mexico border reached unprecedented levels in 2014 as drug trafficking organizations smuggled growing quantities of the low-cost, Mexican-made product into the United States. Thousands of kilograms of Mexican methamphetamine are seized along the Southwest border annually. The drug typically crosses into California from Mexico, heads to San Diego and L. A., then moves east or continues north to San Francisco for transport across the Midwest.
California has experienced a rise in new and dangerous forms of crystal meth, ranking as No. 1 in Google searches for the illicit stimulant. The latest survey of people incarcerated in San Diego county jails suggests meth use is increasing to levels not seen since 2006. Currently, it’s cheap, pure and accessible, keeping longtime addicts dependent on the drug and attracting a younger crop of users. This uptick is being felt nationwide, but especially in places like San Diego and other cities along the Southwest border.
The New Mexico rate for lifetime methamphetamine use has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate, and in 2013, that state’s rate of 5.0 percent was higher than the national rate of 3.2 percent. Methamphetamine also continues to rank as one of Colorado’s top drug threats. Statewide, the number of methamphetamine-related calls to emergency centers has risen substantially within the last decade. Colorado treatment providers report that methamphetamine is commonly used with alcohol and cocaine and owes much of its popularity to its low cost.
A decade after Hawaii battled a major war on “ice,” the street name for smokable methamphetamine, the drug remains a problem for the Islands. Hawaii’s meth problem is considered equal to the east coast’s heroin crisis. Of the 120 drug-related deaths in Honolulu in 2013, more than half were linked to crystal meth abuse.
Although meth remains popular with a new, younger generation being drawn to it, older people also abuse the drug. For example, meth intoxication was listed in 2013 as the cause of death for 132 San Diego County residents (80 people age 45 to 54, 48 people age 55 to 64 and four people 65 or older).
Since 2013, methamphetamine has been the drug most commonly reported by Texas forensic laboratories, outranking both cocaine and cannabis. It is ranked by DEA as the #1 threat in the Dallas area, #2 in the Houston area, and #4 in the El Paso area. The increased availability of the drug has led to a decrease in prices; an “eight-ball” that cost $400 in the summer of 2014 was selling for $225 in February 2015.
Prescription drug abuse in the Southwest
A drug trend that has grown recently in the region—in addiction treatment centers and deaths—is the abuse of prescription drugs, especially among teens. Three southwestern states, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, ranked in the top ten of national drug overdose mortality rates in 2010.
In New Mexico and throughout the region, overdose death from prescription opioids has become an issue of enormous concern fueled by their ready availability. The state has the second highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. Unintentional drug overdoses account for more than 80 percent of the New Mexico’s drug overdose deaths. The most common drugs causing unintentional overdose death were prescription opioids (i.e., methadone, oxycodone, morphine; 49 percent), heroin (29 percent), tranquilizers/muscle relaxants (28 percent), antidepressants (21 percent), cocaine (19 percent) and methamphetamine (9 percent).
Arizona has the sixth highest number of prescription drug overdose deaths and Utah has the eighth highest. The number of drug overdose deaths in Nevada, a majority of which are from prescription drugs, has increased by 80 percent since 1999. Texas boasts the eighth lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, a majority of which are from prescription drugs.
Carisoprodol (Soma®) is not an opiate but it is often abused in combination with hydrocodone and alprazolam (Xanax) as the “Houston Cocktail” or “Holy Trinity.” Texas poison control centers confirmed that exposure cases of intentional misuse or abuse of this muscle relaxant increased from 83 in 1998 to 114 cases in 2014; the average age was 38 years.
While prescription opiates are less common than heroin in Colorado, this type of drug represents an increasing percentage of treatment admissions. Common prescription opiates include oxycodone, hydrocodone and other pain reliever medications.
Prescription drug overdoses now top auto accidents as the leading cause of death in Hawaii. It’s not an exaggeration to call the prescription painkiller problem an epidemic. Over the past decade, overdose deaths in Hawaii have climbed 68 percent. As scrutiny on prescription narcotics intensifies, many addicts have graduated to heroin.
The main reason for the increased use of heroin in Hawaii and elsewhere is that the most abused opiate-based prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, oxycodone and hydrocodone, have become more and more expensive. The switch to heroin reflects the rising cost of the medications and the decrease in the price of heroin, allowing addicts to achieve a cheaper but similar high.
Geography, transportation and increased demand each play a role in making Tucson one of the epicenters of Arizona’s heroin epidemic. Tucson’s proximity to the border makes it a hub for Mexican heroin smugglers looking to drop off drugs for distribution around the western United States. It’s easy to transport heroin to California, Texas and Colorado from Tucson, the largest community close to the border.
Between 2008 and 2012, 446 Utahns died from heroin use and that number has continued to grow. At $15 per balloon, heroin is cheaper and easier to buy than controlled substances, such as OxyContin or morphine, causing Utah’s heroin deaths to hit a 12-year high in 2012. The 104 heroin overdose deaths reported that year, the latest available, marked an increase from an average of 78 the previous 11 years. In 95 percent of the deaths, the deceased combined heroin with some other illegal or prescription drug with cocaine being the most common. The statistics show that 4 of 5 victims are men and that most deaths occurred in the Salt Lake City area.
The New Mexico rate for lifetime heroin use has been consistently higher than the national rate, and in 2013, the state’s rate of 4.0 percent was also higher than the U.S. rate of 2.2 percent. In Colorado, the number of reported heroin users has doubled within the last year, and the number of residents seeking treatment has tripled. Still, heroin ranked fourth in statewide treatment admissions behind alcohol, marijuana and meth in the first half of 2013.
The primary types of heroin in Texas are Mexican black tar and powdered brown, which is black tar turned into a powder. Heroin is also being sold as little blue pills, called “Mexican Oxy,” which resemble OxyContin. The age of persons dying from a heroin overdose has been decreasing, with the average age declining from 41 years in 2005 to 36 years in 2012. There are more reports of suburban youth using heroin, and the number of young Texans entering treatment with a primary problem of heroin has increased.
The use of cocaine dropped by half across United States from 2000 to 2010, while marijuana use increased by more than 30 percent during this period. However, cocaine worth millions of dollars continues to wash up on Texas beaches. Interestingly, cocaine abuse has decreased in that state.
Although state indicators have reflected downward trends in treatment admissions, fatalities and hospital discharges, cocaine remains one of the most commonly abused substances in Colorado. State agencies have found that powdered cocaine is readily available throughout Colorado, and crack cocaine is more available in urban areas.
Primary cocaine treatment admissions accounted for 6.8 percent of total Los Angeles County alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment admissions in the first half of 2013, continuing a downward trend. Primary cocaine treatment admissions were more likely than treatment admissions for any other major illicit substances to report a secondary substance (59.9 percent). The most common secondary substance reported was alcohol (for 29.8 percent of cocaine admissions), followed by marijuana (for 20.7 percent).
The New Mexico rate of cocaine use in 2013 (5.3%) was higher than the US rate (3.0%) in 2011, and has been consistently higher than the US rate since 2003.
Even though the percentage of people who drink alcohol doesn’t seem to be going up, binge drinking is. In Texas, for example, rates of overall binge drinking ranged from 10.8% in Collingsworth County, well below the national average of 18.3%, to 35.5% in Loving County, nearly twice the national average in 2012. Alcohol is the primary drug of abuse in Texas.
Alcohol continues to dominate as the most frequent primary drug mentioned in San Francisco Bay Area treatment admissions during 2013, particularly among males older than 35, followed by meth.
Arizona had the fourth-highest death rate from alcohol poisoning among all U.S. states, according to a new CDC study. The rate in Arizona was 18.7 deaths per million people over age 15, based on data from 2010-2012. That rate was among the highest in the nation. Ninety-three Arizonans die each year from alcohol poisoning.
Over the past 30 years, New Mexico has registered among the highest alcohol-related death rates in the United States and had maintained the highest alcohol-related death rate since 1997. In the period 2010-2012, however, New Mexico changed places with Alaska to become second in the nation.
Year after year, alcohol ranks as the most abused substance in Colorado with 14.2 percent working age population deaths attributed to alcohol from 2006-2010. Alcohol is the most frequently mentioned substance in emergency rooms for the Denver area.
From 2006-2010, Utah averaged 513 deaths per year from excessive drinking and had the lowest per capita rate among the united states studied – 22.4 annual alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 residents.
What Southwestern young people are using
Of particular concern for American youth is heavy consumption of alcohol, or binge drinking, which is defined as drinking five or more drinks at one time. In 2014, 9 percent of all Texas secondary students said that when they drank, they usually drank five or more beers at one time, and 9 percent reported binge drinking of liquor.
For decades, Texas has battled drug traffickers who ship boatloads of cocaine from South America. Now the region is dealing with a new epidemic that began last year in Florida—cheap, synthetic drugs, known as “flakka” or “gravel,” that arrive from China through the mail.
Flakka, which was placed on the U.S. list of illegal controlled substances in 2014, is chemically designed to mimic cathinone, a natural stimulant found in the leaves of the khat plant. And the drug is now spreading out of Florida, with cases reported in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi and even as far north as Ohio and New Jersey.
Texas authorities have identified another new threat, particularly among teenagers—synthetic LSD or acid, called n-bome or 25i, a highly potent hallucinogen. The drug costs a few dollars a hit and comes on blotter paper or stamps.
During the first half of 2013, law enforcement officials in Colorado encountered 25i (also known as 25-NBOMe, Smiles, 25I-NBOMe, NBOMe). From August 21 to September 19, 2013, there were 221 patients admitted to Colorado emergency departments for synthetic cannabinoid use. In Texas, the number of 2-C and NBOME items reported by forensic toxicology laboratories has more than tripled since 2012.
“Cheese,” a prevalent heroin found in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, is now being used by southwestern youth. It is a combination of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM or Xanax, and at just a couple bucks a bump, is a quick, easy high with dangerous consequences.
Houston, Texas is the home of Syzerup, Lean, Purple Drank and Crunk, a drink with Vicodin and other narcotics cut with Kool-Aid or Sprite. The original purple color came from the color of promethazine cough syrup. Variations of “syrup” are available at liquor stores and “relaxation” soft drinks (purple-colored, without alcohol but containing ingredients such as melatonin, valerian root, rose hips) are available, without age restrictions, at some drug stores and convenience stores.
Drug addiction in the Southwest
If you or a loved one would like more information about drug treatment rehab in the Pacific Southwest,call recoveryas.com’s toll free number 1 (877) 968-6283. A compassionate addiction specialist will match you with a drug treatment center that will provide you with the right kind of assistance and therapeutic support so that you can build a solid foundation for recovery. There is never a charge to you for our service.
If your insurance coverage is with one of the following companies, recoveryas.com can help you find the help you need. We can work with any PPO coverage and also offer affordable self-pay and financing options for addiction treatment.
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