Opioid Crisis in Southwest Texas: Fentanyl and Carfentanil Posing Serious Threat
By Michael Rass
The national opioid addiction crisis is also affecting neighborhoods in San Antonio. In 2014, Bexar County had the third-highest overdose rate for opiates after Nueces and Dallas Counties. Twenty-one percent of intoxication deaths in Bexar County involved multiple drugs.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is soon expected to administer federal grants totaling more than $480 million across the United States to fight the opioid crisis. More than $27 million are earmarked for Texas.
According to foxsanantonio.com, the money would help cities increase the number of opioid recovery and addiction service providers. “Right now, there are seventeen in the state, one being in San Antonio.” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales told Fox that the problem is growing in San Antonio. “People are openly using drugs in the street and in vacant lots and in vacant properties.” According to Gonzales, “There is a gap to fill when it comes to addiction recovery.”
The appearance of powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil increasingly poses serious dangers to police officers and detection dogs. Mysanantonio.com reports that “some law enforcement officers in the region have started carrying naloxone in case a K-9 falls ill while sniffing out drugs during detection work, such as raids and searches of cars and homes.” Fentanyl and carfentanil can endanger human officers, even if they take extra precautions such as wearing protective gear when handling drugs.
According to the San Antonio Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse (SACADA), five percent of school-aged kids in Texas have reported using opioids. SACADA has decades of experience raising awareness about substance misuse. Founded in 1957 by a small group of prominent citizens, the San Antonio Council started out educating the community about alcoholism and assisting alcoholics and their families in finding relevant resources. Today, SACADA provides education, youth prevention programs, information resources, and services to prevent alcohol and drug abuse. The group serves nearly 60,000 people in Bexar County and twenty-eight surrounding counties in South Central Texas.
Nearby Austin Also Concerned About Fentanyl
Eighty miles northeast of San Antonio, the state capital, Austin, has also seen an increase in overdoses that are likely related to fentanyl. The medical director of Central Texas Poison Center, Dr. Ryan Morrissey, told NBC affiliate KXAN that his center only gets a snapshot of the impact fentanyl is having around the state. In the last five years, the CTPC has received 378 fentanyl-related calls, mainly prescription overdoses. “We only have those data if we are notified by someone at home or usually a hospital in the case of fentanyl,” Dr. Morrissey told KXAN.
Several groups have been raising awareness of the crisis in Austin. The Travis County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition helps establish and strengthen collaboration among community partners to prevent or reduce youth substance abuse in Travis County. Sober Austin provides information about inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, 12-Step support groups, and sober-living facilities.
Austin is famous for its “party culture,” and avoiding alcohol isn’t easy. Many Texans with substance use disorder would benefit from undergoing evidenced-based addiction treatment away from their home environment.
As a treatment center at the forefront of ending the opioid epidemic, Lakeview Health offers a comprehensive drug and alcoholism treatment program in a safe environment away from common addiction triggers. Lakeview Health’s specialty is simultaneously treating addiction and any co-occurring disorders like trauma, depression, and chronic pain. All staff at Lakeview have been trained in trauma-informed care, and patients can also benefit from gender-responsive treatment.