The Drug Threat - How Big Is The Problem?


The Heroin Epidemic

Today is a somber day in our great nation.  CNN just announced that the death toll attributed to heroin overdoses in the United States has exceeded deaths by gun violence.  As a Police Officer, I have seen firsthand the devastating pain, suffering, and burden of drug addiction on users, families, and the criminal justice system.  In fact, few Americans have NOT been affected by drug addiction. Whether a mother, brother, daughter or friend, the struggle against narcotic analgesic addiction has had a lasting impact in our communities. 

In the past decade, there has been significant growth in the illicit trafficking of drugs throughout the United States.  The Houston area continues to be threatened due to the close proximity to the U.S.- Mexico border.  Even with the strong law enforcement presence devoted to combating this threat, the quantity of drugs being transported through the region remains staggering.

Illegally Drugs Being Distributed In Our Community

Most Houston drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are considered to be multi-drug traffickers, and thus, are involved in the distribution of more than one drug type. Of the DTO's investigated, 62% trafficked powder cocaine, 53% trafficked marijuana, 44% trafficked methamphetamine, and 9% trafficked heroin.  Ecstasy, prescription drugs, and other drug types were trafficked less frequently. 
Ice methamphetamine was ranked most frequently as the greatest drug threat (31%), followed by crack cocaine (21%), powder cocaine (17%), controlled prescription drugs (14%), marijuana (11%), other dangerous drugs (1%), powder methamphetamine (1%), and heroin (1%). In comparison to the previous year, ice methamphetamine replaced crack cocaine as the greatest drug threat in the Houston area.

Crack cocaine had been ranked as the greatest drug threat for the previous two years. Crack cocaine fell to the position of second greatest drug threat, powder cocaine maintained its position as the third greatest drug threat, and marijuana and prescription drugs switched places in the ranking, with prescription drugs being ranked as the fourth greatest drug threat and marijuana falling to fifth greatest drug threat. Ice methamphetamine now also ranks above crack cocaine as being the drug that is most often associated with both violent crime and property crime. 
Serious Threat - Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs pose a serious threat to the Houston area. The threat from synthetic marijuana (synthetic cannabinoids) has continued to rise.  Synthetic marijuana has replaced other drugs as a significant health issue in the Houston area.


Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug misuse and abuse is the intentional or unintentional use of medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feeling it causes. About 15 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year, and 6.5 million did so in the past month. This issue is a growing national problem in the United States. Prescription drugs are misused and abused more often than any other drug, except marijuana and alcohol. This growth is fueled by misperceptions about prescription drug safety, and increasing availability


The five most addictive substances on Earth – and what they do to your brain

What are the most addictive drugs? This question seems simple, but the answer depends on whom you ask. From the points of view of different researchers, the potential for a drug to be addictive can be judged in terms of the harm it causes, the street value of the drug, the extent to which the drug activates the brain’s dopamine system, how pleasurable people report the drug to be, the degree to which the drug causes withdrawal symptoms, and how easily a person trying the drug will become hooked.

There are other facets to measuring the addictive potential of a drug, too, and there are even researchers who argue that no drug is always addictive. Given the varied view of researchers, then, one way of ranking addictive drugs is to ask expert panels. David Nutt and his colleagues asked addiction experts to do exactly that – with some interesting findings.
Source: Eric Bowman, Lecturer in Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews



Excessive drinking is one of the biggest, most detrimental issues to public health in the United States. The CDC's Alcohol Program utilizes public health surveillance and evidence-based strategies in an effort to educate the public on the health risks of binge and heavy drinking, and the preventive measures that are most effective.