Alcohol and Drug Abuse Trends in Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville resides on the Texas-Mexico border and is the southernmost city in the state of Texas. The city has a population of roughly 189,592, and as the county seat of Cameron County, Brownsville is located in one of the biggest counties in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area. Brownsville’s close proximity to the border and high level of poverty has led to increasingly serious problems in the community in terms of drug trafficking and substance abuse.
Drug Trafficking In and Around Brownsville
Drug trafficking across the Texas-Mexico border is extensive and has become progressively worse within recent years. Researchers estimate that 70% of all drugs smuggled into the United States come across the Mexican border. In 2016 alone, nearly 1.3 million pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines were seized along the southwest border by American border patrol agents.
As the southernmost city, Brownsville has been a prime target for distribution by cartels and illegal traffickers. The town environment of heavy drug trafficking and easy availability of drugs has contributed to a climate in which drug use is normalized. The damage caused by the prevalence of substance abuse is extensive in Brownsville, as rates of violent crime and unemployment have also increased. As of 2015, the percent of poverty for Cameron County was 32.4% – which is double the national average. Furthermore, the community has been impacted by high levels of immigration, which has intensified the competition for jobs, health care, and affordable housing.
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The Heroin and Meth Crisis
Over the past two decades, drug overdose deaths have almost tripled in Texas. In 2016, there were 34 drug overdose deaths in Cameron County for every 100,000 people. More people died in Brownsville that year due to drug-related causes than from gun violence, motor vehicle crashes, and HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of these overdose deaths occurred due to heroin and meth abuse.
Heroin has long been distributed in border cities, as it is Mexico’s 3rd biggest drug export. The primary types brought into the area include Mexican Black Tar heroin and Powdered Brown heroin. Cameron County street outreach workers report that heroin is very common throughout the city and is often sold in baggies and balloons on street corners, similar to how crack cocaine is sold. Although still extremely addictive, Texas has been relatively protected from heroin-related deaths in the past due to the fact that Black Tar is harder to mix with other drugs, including the lethal substance fentanyl. However, that has started to change as the White Powder heroin that is prevalent in the Midwest has become increasingly available. White Powder is easier to cut other drugs with, and accordingly, heroin overdose deaths have risen an estimated 3% in Cameron County since 2017.
Rates of meth abuse are also high for cities that reside on the Mexican border, as methamphetamine is more commonly trafficked in the area compared to other places in the state. In 2015, Brownsville border patrol agents seized $3 million worth of meth from just one smuggler attempting to cross the border. Meth is a toxic and potent stimulant drug that is exceptionally dangerous because it may be mixed with other amphetamines or potentially poisonous chemicals, such as lantern fuel, battery acid, drain cleaner, and antifreeze.
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At-Risk Youth in Brownsville
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas has experienced a recent increase in juvenile crime and violence. Due to the heavy trafficking in the area, Brownsville youth are at particular risk for becoming involved in gangs that engage in illicit drug-related activities. As of 2015, the Cameron County Juvenile Probation has identified 20 active gangs in Brownsville that participate in the illegal trafficking of drugs and include youth from the community.
Juveniles in our community are being exploited. They are making decisions that put themselves at risk and they don’t understand the consequences. Juveniles are viewed as cheap and disposable labor, a means for cartels to push their illicit product.
The Brownsville Police Department and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department have also reported an increase in problems dealing with juvenile substance abuse and crime. Drug use is a serious problem for the Brownsville Independent School District, as 28% of Brownsville 8th graders reported alcohol and other drugs as “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain. In 2015, 4.4% of Brownsville school suspensions and expulsions involved the use of controlled substances. Although there has been a coordination of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to address these behaviors, risk factors remain a disturbing problem in the community.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
If you’re someone that’s struggling with addiction in the Brownsville area, know that you’re not alone and that there are options available to you. Texas is home to hundreds of substance abuse treatment service centers, and there are thousands more throughout the nation. Rehabilitation centers provide extensive recovery programs for alcohol and drug addictions that include individual counseling, detoxification, and relapse prevention services. Contact a dedicated treatment provider to learn more about your options today.