The Link Between Chronic Pain and Addiction in East Texas
By Michael Rass
Houston is the seat of the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center, which contains the world’s largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions. More heart surgeries are performed at Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world. The fourth-most populous city in the United States also attracts a lot of patients with chronic pain many of which have been prescribed opioid pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
These drugs are at the center of the current opioid addiction epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,000 people are treated every day in emergency departments across the nation for misusing prescription opioids. A significant share of those patients develops a substance use disorder. Another cohort at a high risk of addiction comprises patients with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.
As a consequence of the concentration of hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Houston—including a large number of patients on psychoactive medications—a disproportionate number of people in the city have addiction problems.
“A lot of those patients require addiction treatment as well as pain therapy,” says Danny Silianoff, who represents Lakeview Health in Eastern Texas. “It is a combination increasingly in demand, and Lakeview is a great place to treat both conditions effectively.”
Lakeview’s medical team includes Dr. Adrian Blotner, who is board certified in both psychiatry and pain medicine. He specializes in medication management, addressing all aspects of chronic pain, emphasizing non-habit-forming medications, and nonpharmacological techniques.
Lakeview is an attractive partner for healthcare providers in Houston for good reasons.
“We have the doctors, the nurses, and the medical facilities to make a seamless transition from any clinic in Houston to rehab in Jacksonville. We can provide equally good medical care. In some cases, it is superior because Lakeview Health is often better at treating the substance use disorder.”
-Danny Silianoff, Client Services Consultant in Texas
Another drug problem making headlines in Houston is the use of synthetic cannabinoids. Public radio station KUT reported in 2016 that “the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Harris County Attorney’s Office are going after shops selling the synthetic cannabinoid Kush.”
Kush—also known as Spice or K2—has been popular because it was initially a legal substance widely available at convenience stores, in smoke shops, and online. In July 2012, a national ban was enacted against the sale of synthetic cannabinoids in the United States.
But synthetic cannabinoids are cheap and are often still sold in retail stores. The authorities in the Houston area filed lawsuits against a number of local novelty stores, where up to 40 percent of sales reportedly come from the drug.
Kush comes in colorful packages with harmless-sounding names and cartoonish illustrations on the cover. The packages contain a ground-up leafy substance sprayed with an intoxicating blend of chemicals. It is usually uncertain what chemicals the “herbal incense” actually contains. Cynically, the fine print on the package regularly warns buyers that kush is “not for human consumption.”
It should indeed not be consumed by human beings. Since it can be a hundred times more powerful than regular, plant-derived cannabinoids, using it can have serious consequences. In June 2016, sixteen people in Houston’s Hermann Park overdosed on the drug, according to KUT. “Houston EMS said they had received over 900 calls for help from summer 2015 to March 2016 for Kush-related instances.”
To evade the authorities, the chemical composition of Kush is constantly changing. That makes the effects of the substance highly unpredictable and potentially severe or even life threatening. When treating patients using such drugs, rehab centers are usually forced to fly blind because of the unknown composition of such substances.
“We tend to lag behind the designers of these drugs,” explains Dr. Kevin Holbert, chief of staff at Lakeview Health. “Unfortunately, it is our patients who are testing these drugs. For many of the designer drugs, there is no consistent predictability of their intoxicating effects or withdrawal syndromes.”
The Lakeview Health treatment model is an integrative health approach. The medical team at Lakeview is prepared to treat not just the addiction but also the medical acuities that can be caused by long-term drug misuse. Additionally, they are ready to address the many co-occurring issues that accompany addiction. This comprehensive approach gives patients a better chance to achieve a full recovery from addiction to any substance.
If you are a professional in East Texas interested in referring a patient to our facility, contact Danny Silianoff.