Heroin Addiction in Texas

There is currently no good basis upon which to estimate the total number of heroin addiction in Texas because of limitations of surveys and other data in identifying hidden populations such as users of illicit drugs. Federal, state, and local agencies need such data to allocate heroin addiction treatment funds equitably and to measure the need for additional treatment services. This publication is a part, which sought to overcome some of these limitations by using and increasing on one statistical methodology that can estimate the data of heroin addiction in Texas who are susceptible or amenable to seeking treatment in publicly-funded facilities.

Heroin Addiction in Texas:

Heroin in Texas comes primarily from Mexico. As of April, 2012, only about 35 percent of the heroin in Texas was from Asia and little, if any, Colombian or South American heroin can be found in Texas. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) provides information on emergency room episodes in the Dallas metropolitan area involving mentions of drugs from 2011 through 2012. DAWN shows that mentions of heroin have ranged between 20.3 and 25.9 per 100,000 persons between 2008 and 2012, with no important changes in patterns or characteristics other than the aging of these patients. There is no way to tell from the DAWN data whether the same persons returned to the emergency rooms in later years or whether different persons were seen in later years.

According to the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) reports, the proportion of arrestees testing positive for heroin since 1991 has remained fairly level, although the percent positive is still bigger in San Antonio than in Dallas or Houston. The quality of heroin has been low in Texas, averaging 9 to 16 percent per milligram pure. However, on the East Coast of the US, Colombian heroin up to 70 percent per milligram pure has resulted in a heroin plague as shown by data from emergency rooms, treatment programs, overdose deaths, law enforcement statistics, and reports of a new cohort of new young users. Although purity has remained low, the price of an ounce of Mexican Black Tar heroin in Texas has decreased.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of overdose deaths in which heroin was mentioned as a cause increased. The DAWN shows the characteristics of persons who died from such overdoses in this period. Average age throughout this time period was about 38 years. The most noticeable changes in the characteristics of the decedents was the increasing proportion who were Anglo. Over this period of time, 19 percent were female, 53 percent were Anglo, 34 percent were Hispanic, and 13 percent were African American.

The primary form of heroin in Texas is "black tar," which has a black gummy, oily texture that can be diluted with water and injected. Many studies shows the slump in price over the years. Based on the location, "black tar" heroin sells on the street for $10-$20 per capsule, $100-$300 per gram, $1,000-$4,500 per ounce, and $25,000-$40,000 per kilogram. An ounce of Black Tar costs $1,000-$1,500 in Dallas, $1,200-$1,700 in Fort Worth, $1,000 in El Paso, $3,600-$4,000 in Midland, $3,500-$4,500 in Lubbock, $2,300-$2,500 in Houston, $2,000-$2,600 in Galveston, $1,300 in Laredo, $700-$1,400 in McAllen, $1,400-$1,600 in Austin, and $1,200-$1,600 in San Antonio.

Heroin-Induced Deaths:

Data sources show there has not been a new epidemic of users through 1994; the heroin addiction in Texas had remained fairly stable, with aging addicts and somewhat lower prices. Beginning in 2008, this picture has changed, with reports of new younger users and more potent heroin.

As a direct consequence of heroin use, 4,723 persons died in Texas in 2012. This is compared to the number of persons in Texas who died from motor vehicle accidents (5,800) and firearms (4,139) in the same year. Texas heroin-induced deaths (9.8 per 100,000 population) were lower than the national rate (12.7 per 100,000).

The Progress of a Heroin Addiction in Texas:

The progress of a heroin addiction in Texas is sequential, starting with experimentation and moving from "getting high" in the early stage of use to heavier abuse and heroin-seeking behavior to meet psychological and physical dependence in later stages.

Among African American male heroin users in four cities of the Texas, all reported that in the period before they began to use heroin, they were familiar with it: many learned about it from the persons who subsequently presided over their initiation. They were curious about heroin, but doubt using it, especially using it intravenously. They recognized the aura of status given heroin use by many ghetto youth. Yet the first shot of heroin was one of the most significant experiences in their lives: they continued using heroin and continued to search for that "first shot" feeling. The experience of using heroin is reported as being suspended in time and insulated from the outside world.

A study of 108 Hispanic heroin addicts in Dallas found that all of them started injecting with a friend, spouse, or relative. Motivating factors included a recent tragedy, a need to feel good, the desire to imitate friends who appeared happy, or the need to be part of a group, as well as the availability of heroins. Some 60 percent of the female addicts said their primary reason for starting to use heroin was to be loved by their partner.

The novice heroin user begins to learn the requirements and methods of becoming a successful heroin consumer by spending a significant amount of time and energy learning how to ensure a continuing supply of heroin. Novices usually have a significant other who functions as a mentor. Less time is spent with non-heroin-using friends; new friends are chosen because of their involvement with heroins.