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Methamphetamine Abuse: The Other Drug Epidemic

crystal meth
Crystsal Meth

While the opioid epidemic continues to dominate the national headlines, methamphetamine addiction has emerged as a major crisis in Texas.

A big problem

Methamphetamine, known as “meth”, killed 715 Texans in 2016 compared to 539 heroin deaths. During the same period, U.S-Mexican border agents seized seven times more meth than heroin. Over 8,200 meth users were admitted to Texas health department-funded treatment programs, nearly 20% of all admissions.

Dangerous connection with Mexico

According to the DEA, methamphetamine is a major threat to Texas. Though pseudoephedrine (a key to meth production) plummeted after purchase restriction laws were implemented, production of meth simply shifted to south of the border. As Mexico filled the increasing demand, a new production technique, called the “nitrostyrene method”, also created more potent meth. It’s now the predominant form of the drug entering Texas. It is also one of the cheapest, selling for $5 a hit.

A deadly mix

Even more troubling is the uptick in fatalities from the mixing of crystal meth with heroin.  In 2016, 17% of the deaths in Texas attributed to meth also involved heroin. So, as the opioid crisis grows, this mixing and the concurrent increase in meth usage have created an even greater health crisis for the state.

Link to STD increases

The Texas meth epidemic is also being linked with an increases in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, according to a recent report from the University of Texas at Austin. A CDC survey in Dallas sited in the report indicated that the proportion of homosexual men who reported non-injection use of meth went from 9% in 2008 to 45% in 2014. Recent HIV trends show that use of crystal meth has more than doubled HIV risk factors.

The Council’s response

In facing the methamphetamine epidemic, The Council on Recovery has redoubled its efforts to address the problem with robust prevention and education programs. The Council’s Center for Recovering Families has also become a vital outpatient destination for individuals affected by crystal meth addiction. We provide substance use assessments, counseling, and Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program. We also work with family members and loved ones impacted by substance use disorders. For more information, call the Center for Recovering Families at 713-914-0556 or contact us here.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 40

In the parlance of long-running, multi-season TV shows, the term “jump the shark” denotes that point at which the series popularity begins to decline.  It usually cites a particular show in which the characters in the show do something a bit absurd, maybe so much beyond the mythos of the show that it begins to destroy that mythos and, maybe, the TV audience’s love affair with the themes and the characters.  Jumping the Shark

The term got its name, “jump the shark” from the 1970’s TV series “Happy Days,” about a mid-western family and their friends.  Happy Days “jumped the shark,” began to decline in popularity, when one of the characters, Arthur Fonzarelli, aka, Fonzie or The Fonz, in an episode in the later stretch of the series run, pulled off an outlandish water-skiing stunt by jumping a shark pit.

This idea has been linked to virtually all multi-season shows, as well as some other situations, in a 2002 book of the same name by Jon Hein, a magazine writer of some renown.  Hein analyzes nearly 300 TV shows, sports organizations, music groups, celebrities and political careers in the same vein.  This type event seems to be signaling a major inflection point in the history of organizations, events and people and it occurs to me that we could look at our own lives in addiction in just the same way.  We could see such an event, first, as that event in our drinking history when our behavior was so bad, when an event of absolute insanity occurred, in front of a large gathering of our family, friends, and communities, that it absolutely confirmed our descent into insanity in the larger cosmos. For this alcoholic, it happened at the end of a Texas high school football championship game when, before 20,000 people (family, friends, business acquaintances, and just people) in the Astrodome, I took off across an empty field chasing the referee to complain of a bad call that cost us the game.

Or, from a different perspective, it could be that point at which, in our efforts to recovery, we finally got it, when we finally grasped the idea of “doing what it takes.”  Stopping the drinking and using, going to meetings, working the steps, listening intently to our Fellows, it occurs to us one day, almost out of the blue, that we could do this.  That the scourge of alcohol and drugs and debilitating behaviors was being lifted.

We had to, we have to keep working the program, but the realization that recovery had begun, in earnest, was truly at hand.  What a great day…

Senate Passes Broad Opioid Package to Address National Crisis

Senate passes opioid package

The Council on Recovery applauds the U.S. Senate’s passage of the final version of a sweeping opioids package Wednesday. Passed with rare bipartisan support by a vote of 98-1, the bill will be sent it to the White House for expected signature.

The bill represents Congressional response to the opioid epidemic, a growing public health crisis that resulted in 72,000 drug-overdose deaths last year. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week. It combines dozens of smaller proposals, from both sides of the aisle, that affect every federal agency. The bill is aimed at addressing different aspects of the opioid crisis, including prevention, treatment and recovery.

Major Provisions

Among major provisions, the legislation creates a grant program for comprehensive recovery centers that include housing and job training, as well as mental and physical health care. It also increases access to medication-assisted treatment to help people with substance abuse disorders safely detox from the opioids.

Another portion of the bill changes a prohibition that limited Medicaid from covering patients with substance abuse disorders who were receiving treatment in a mental health facility with more than 16 beds. The bill lifts that rule to allow for 30 days of residential treatment coverage.

The bill also gives Medicare beneficiaries more information on alternative pain treatments, and expands treatment options for enrollees who are addicted to opioids.

Funding in the Bill

Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion this year for opioid-related programs, but has not guaranteed funding for subsequent years. Some members of Congress have proposed committing at least $100 billion over ten years to fight the opioid epidemic.

The Council on Recovery

The Council on Recovery is in the vanguard of local efforts to stem the opioid epidemic with a broad array of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery programs. The Council also recently hosted the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit. For more information about our services, contact us today.

Yale Study: Genes May Explain Why Alcohol Detox is Particularly Hard for Some People

Detox
Yale Study Explains Why Detox Symptoms are Worse for Some, Not Others

New findings published in journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Some heavy drinkers suffer intense withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking — some, less so.  A new Yale-led international study of individuals with alcohol dependence has identified gene variants that may help explain why “detox” from alcohol is particularly difficult for some people. The researchers report their findings September 25 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Alcohol takes more lives in the United States every year than opioids, but there are few effective treatments to help people who have an alcohol use disorder,” said Andrew H. Smith, lead author of the study and a research affiliate in the laboratory of senior author Joel Gelernter, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience. “For people who experience intense withdrawal symptoms, that’s one more barrier they have to face while trying to reduce unhealthy alcohol use.”

Those physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are much worse than any hangover. Sudden cessation of alcohol consumption can lead to shakes, nausea, headaches, anxiety, fluctuations in blood pressure, and in the most serious cases, seizures.

The American team and collaborators in Denmark linked variants in the SORCS2 gene to the severity of alcohol withdrawal in people who have European ancestry, about one in ten of whom carry the variants. No such connection was found in African Americans. Intriguingly, the SORCS2 gene is important for activation of brain areas which respond to changes in the environment. The gene variants identified in the study may impinge on the ability of heavy drinkers to adapt to the sudden absence of alcohol, researchers speculate.

Better understanding of the many genes likely to be involved in withdrawal symptoms could ultimately lead to new medications that moderate these symptoms, which could help with the discontinuation of habitual alcohol use,” Gelernter said.

The research was primarily funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


The Council on Recovery does not provide medical detox services, but does refer out to detox facilities in the Houston area. The Council provides outpatient services for people battling alcoholism, including Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). Call 713.914.0556 for more information.

How Drugs Alter Brain Development and Affect Teens

Changes in Brain Development and Function From Drug Abuse

Most kids grow dramatically during the adolescent and teen years. Their young brains, particularly the prefrontal cortex that is used to make decisions, are growing and developing, until their mid-20’s.

Long-term drug use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems. Once a young person is addicted, his or her brain changes so that drugs are now the top priority. He or she will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences to his or her life, and for those who care about him.

(See moreStudy: Regularly Using Marijuana as a Teen Slows Brain Development)

Alcohol can interfere with developmental processes occurring in the brain. For weeks or months after a teen stops drinking heavily, parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. Drinking at a young age is also associated with the development of alcohol dependence later in life.

What is Addiction?

No one plans to become addicted to a drug. Instead, it begins with a single use, which can lead to abuse, which can lead to addiction.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as:

A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Addiction is a brain disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and lead to harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

The good news is that addiction is treatable. The treatment approach to substance abuse depends on several factors, including a child’s temperament and willingness to change. It may take several attempts at treatment before a child remains drug-free. For those teens who are treated for addiction, there is hope for a life of recovery.

The Council on Recovery’s Center for Recovering Families has a broad spectrum of outpatient services for adolescents, including individual therapy, group therapy, high-risk behavior classes, and other education and treatment programs. For information, call 713-914-0556.

(Source: Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA Resource for Parents, Educators, & Caregivers)