Texas faces an opioid epidemic

Ernest Bailes


It is currently estimated that nearly 8 in 100 Texans have a substance abuse disorder, including the widespread abuse of opioids. Opioids, a class of drugs which work on the opioid receptors in the brain, are used to treat pain. When taken for a short period of time as prescribed by a doctor, they are considered safe, but are potentially highly addictive. Prescription opioids (including: oxycodone/OxyContin and Percocet, hydrocodone/Vicodin, codeine, and morphine/Kadian and Avinza) are frequently sold on the black market by those who have obtained legal prescriptions from a doctor. Heroin and fentanyl are highly lethal drugs that are also classified as opioids.  

Each year, we are learning more about the opioid epidemic. Two alarming facts: (1) Statistics from 2016 show opioid overdoses kill more Americans each year than guns, breast cancer, or automobile accidents, and (2) Opioid abuse/overdoses are increasing each year. The opioid epidemic is so wide spread it has been declared a national public health emergency. In 2016, West Virginia lead the nation with a death rate of 43.4 per 100,000 residents. Where the death rate associated with opioids in Texas was estimated at 4.9 per 100,000 residents. In comparison to other states, that may not seem high, but it can’t be ignored.

The federal government has set aside $27 million to help Texas deal with the opioid crisis in our state. While doctors, patients, and pharmaceutical companies all share a level of responsibility for this epidemic, the Texas legislature is also working to determine what laws might be necessary to impact the cycle of abuse. During the 85th session, the legislature created the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). This program increases prescription monitoring regulations and controls with regard to pharmacies and prescribers. The legislature also moved to require the Texas Medical Board (TMB) to establish guidelines of opioid antagonist drugs to treat an overdose. Hopefully, Texas can continue to stay ahead of the opioid crisis.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office at 936-628-6687 or by email at district.18bailes@house.texas.gov.


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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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