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Texas Teen Drug Abuse Statistics

If you tune into the news, it is likely that you have heard recent accounts of young people in Texas losing their lives to drugs as well as major drug ring arrests. Here are a few of the alarming news stories that appeared from June 2016 to August 2016.

  • A 19-year-old Frisco man died from an apparent drug overdose at a Texas A&M University fraternity house in College Station and four were arrested on drug charges.1
  • Sixteen people, including a University of Houston assistant professor, were charged in a sweeping federal indictment for participating in a $35-million international ring that produced more than 9.5 tons of a drug known as synthetic marijuana or kush.2
  • A high school cheerleader died of a suspected drug overdose after taking tainted ecstasy at the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston.3
  • Police believe the batch of K2 that sickened at least 69 people in Austin came from Houston, where 16 people at Hermann Park were taken to the hospital in June due to bad reactions.4
  • Beaumont police believe as many as 12 people overdosed on the same tainted batch of synthetic marijuana based on similar symptoms including paranoia and hallucinations.5
  • Sixteen people in Houston overdosed on one June day in an area of Hermann Park so notorious as a synthetic marijuana user hangout that it is nicknamed “Kush Corner.”6

Synthetic Cannabinoids and Marijuana

Clearly, there is an epidemic in Texas and in other states around the country related to people overdosing on synthetic marijuana, which is actually not marijuana at all. Synthetic cannabinoids include a growing number of manmade mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material to be smoked (herbal incense) or vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense). Synthetic cannabinoids are widely referred to as “synthetic marijuana” and marketed as safe alternatives to genuine marijuana. However, chemical tests show that the active, mind-altering ingredients are cannabinoid compounds made in laboratories. In fact, they may affect the brain far more powerfully than marijuana and the actual effects can be unpredictable, severe and even life-threatening.7

Manufacturers sell these herbal incense products in colorful foil packages, often with cartoon characters that appeal to young people, and sell similar liquid incense products in attractive plastic bottles. Whereas K2 and Spice were once the most common names, many others have cropped up such as Joker, Black Mamba, Kush and Kronic. They are typically sold at head shops, novelty stores, gas stations and online. Although the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana have a high potential for abuse and are banned as quickly as authorities can identify them, manufacturers sidestep the restrictions by changing the chemical formulas in their mixtures.7

In 2013, the Texas Poison Center reported 464 exposures to synthetic marijuana and in 2014, this increased to 782. A new law that went into effect in September 2015 expands provisions of the Texas Controlled Substances Act, outlawing more of the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana.8

Teen Drug Abuse Facts and Stats

It is evident that the use of synthetic cannabinoids has reached epidemic levels, although in some Texas cities, usage appears to be more prevalent among homeless people than teens. Here are statistics from the rest of the nation from 2015:

  • An average of 34.7% of high school students nationwide who ever used marijuana tried it for the first time before age 13.9
  • An average of 19.1% of high school students nationwide currently use marijuana.9
  • An average of 9.2% of high school students nationwide used synthetic marijuana at some point in their lives.9

Although statewide figures were not included in the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Fort Worth and Houston were included under large urban school districts. Estimates: 37.3% of high school students in Fort Worth and 37.6% of high school students in Houston who ever used marijuana tried it for the first time before age 13. While those figures are higher than the national average, Baltimore has the dubious distinction of the city with the highest average at 45.3%. In Fort Worth, 17.4% of high school students currently use marijuana compared to 17.5% in Houston, both of which are lower than the national average.

As for synthetic marijuana use, both Fort Worth and Houston are above the national average, at 9.9% and 12.3% respectively. While Houston is not the worst among urban cities surveyed, it is the third highest after Baltimore and Cleveland. That is certainly in line with Houston news articles that have reported a growing problem.9

High School Drug Use: Other Substances

  • Cocaine: National average: 4.8%, Fort Worth: 5.6%, Houston: 9.6% (highest city)9
  • Ecstasy: National average: 5.1%, Fort Worth: 5.4%, Houston: 8.6% (second highest city)9
  • Heroin: National average: 2.5%, Fort Worth: 1.5%, Houston: 6.1% (third highest)9
  • Methamphetamines (speed, crystal, crank or ice): National average: 3.2%, Fort Worth: 2.7%, Houston: 6.5% (third highest)9
  • Inhalants: National average: 7.7%, Fort Worth: 5.8%, Houston: 8.4%9

With many of the highest drug use statistics among high school students in the nation, Houston clearly has a serious substance abuse problem among youth, whereas Fort Worth exceeded national averages in synthetic marijuana and ecstasy use. The Right Step has more than 20 treatment facilities throughout Texas, in the Houston area, Dallas Fort Worth, and Austin/San Antonio. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, contact us today at 1-844-756-2656.

  1. Downs C. Texas A&M student who died of overdose at frat house was Frisco teen; 4 arrested on drug charges. Dallas News. August 21, 2016. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/headlines/20160821-texas-am-student-who-died-of-overdose-at-frat-house-was-frisco-teen-4-arrested-on-drug-charges.ece Accessed August 28, 2016.
  2. Banks G. UH professor, 15 others nabbed in federal sting on ‘kush’ operation. Houston Chronicle. May 17, 2017. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/UH-professor-15-others-nabbed-in-federal-sting-7529209.php Accessed August 28, 2016.
  3. High school cheerleader, 18, dies in suspected drug overdose during Texas music festival after taking ‘tainted ecstasy’. Daily Mail website. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3632950/High-school-cheerleader-18-dies-suspected-drug-overdose-Texas-music-festival-taking-tainted-ecstasy.html Published June 9, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  4. K2 Victim Count Reaches 69 People In Austin Requiring Medical Attention. Downtown Austin Patch website. http://patch.com/texas/downtownaustin/austin-police-close-downtown-streets-responding-rash-k2-related-emergencies Published August 26, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  5. Krebs N, Barned-Smith SJ, Banks G. Beaumont sees spike in synthetic marijuana overdoses. Beaumont Enterprise. August 26, 2016. http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/sciencehealth/article/Beaumont-sees-spike-in-synthetic-marijuana-9186198.php Accessed August 28, 2016.
  6. Flynn M. 16 Hospitalized After Synthetic Marijuana Overdose at Hermann Park. Houston Press. June 24, 2016. http://www.houstonpress.com/news/16-hospitalized-after-synthetic-marijuana-overdose-at-hermann-park-8511687 Accessed August 28, 2016.
  7. What are synthetic cannabinoids? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids Updated November 2015. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  8. Ramirez D. New Texas law fights synthetic marijuana. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 2, 2015. http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article33366684.html Accessed August 28, 2016.
  9. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/results.htm Published June 10, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2016.
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