Drug Rehab in Houston, TX

  Although the drug overdose death rate has risen yearly since 1999 (except for 2019–2019), it rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic: from 21.6 per 100,000 in 2019 to 28.3 in 2020. That makes the need for drug rehab greater than ever. Substance abuse is sometimes called a “disease of despair” along with co-occurring health issues, both physical (heart disease, stroke, cancer) and mental (depression, stress, trauma). Such diseases are caused or exacerbated not only by COVID-19 pandemic isolation but also by stagnant wages and loss of high-paid labor for people with little education.  Such despair has led to a decrease in life expectancy. In 2019, life expectancy in Texas was about the national average at 78.6.  Aside from despair, another cause of the rise in substance abuse and overdose deaths was the aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies of opioids for chronic pain relief (as opposed to acute or short-term pain). In particular, OxyContin—a new opioid supposedly non-addictive and safe for long-term use—helped create a new generation of opioid addicts.  The subsequent crackdown on overprescription caused these new, first-time, and unintentional addicts to turn to even less-safe illegal and black-market opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl.

Drug threat in Houston, TX

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the top five drug threats facing Houston in 2019 were (in order):
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Cocaine 
  • Heroin and other opioids 
  • Cannabis 
  • Spice, K2, and other synthetic cannabinoids 
One of the unspecified other opioids—possibly the number one threat now—is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid as much as 50 times more potent than heroin. Since the crackdown on legal opioid overprescription, fentanyl has flooded the illegal market because its potency makes it easier and more economical to smuggle (a little goes a long way).  Fentanyl’s potency makes it more dangerous than other drugs—a dose that’s just one milligram off can be fatal—but so does its versatility. It is often added to or substituted for other illegal drugs—including heroin, other opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine—without the user’s knowledge.  Fentanyl can even be pressed into counterfeit pills of OxyContin, and other pharmaceuticals that buyers may assume are diverted, not fakes, and therefore believe (incorrectly) are safer to use.  The opioid addiction crisis turned into a drug overdose crisis because people who became hooked on legal prescription painkillers switched to illegal opioids. That in turn, was because: Illegal drugs have always carried the risk of death, but with the degree to which fentanyl penetrated the illegal drug supply, that risk becomes almost inevitable. That makes drug rehab in Houston, TX, a matter of life or death.

Drug Abuse in Houston, TX

Not that Houston or Texas is the most at-risk city or state in the U.S.   According to 2019 figures (the latest available), Texas—the state with the second-largest population—has the third-lowest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.  Houston makes up almost half of Harris County and is the largest city in Texas. Harris County’s drug overdose rate is higher than that of Texas (12.4 per 100,000 vs. 10.6) but is about half that of the US (21.0).  More recent figures indicate that the overdose death rate due to fentanyl is almost twice as high as all other drugs across the board. A December 2021 drug bust scooped up 40 pounds of fentanyl, the equivalent of at least 150,000 doses.  The same bust only seized 13 pounds of heroin but more than 300 pounds each of meth and cocaine, proving they are still a major threat, even if they cause fewer deaths than fentanyl.  They also pose special problems, including: 
  • No anti-overdose drugs. Opioid overdoses, including fentanyl, can be reversed with naloxone (Narcan). Stimulants don’t have as effective a remedy.
  • No medication-assisted treatments (MAT). Opioid replacement drugs—including buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone—can prevent withdrawal, making recovery easier and relapse less likely. There’s no equivalent for stimulants. 
Alcohol is not always included in drug threats but is one of the worse when it is. Texas had the fifth-highest rate of alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2019. The rate for Harris County alone jumped more than 30% between 2019 and 2020. When it comes to drug rehabs, the story is mixed. Texas had among the fewest people needing rehab but also one of the lowest numbers of rehab openings for those who need them.

Support for college students

Substance use interferes with that development by hijacking the brain’s reward systems, disrupting the release of the brain’s feel-good chemicals (neurotransmitters) in favor of stronger drug-released chemicals.  Substance abuse is most likely to become an addiction when it starts before age 25 because the brain is still developing. Less than 3% of people begin substance abuse at age 25 or later. Almost 75% start before age 18 Substance abuse prevention and rehab should ideally begin before college. The Houston Independent School District (HISD)—the largest school district in Texas, with more than 270 schools, from early childhood through high school—has a list of community resources for substance abuse prevention Some Houston colleges also have substance abuse prevention programs in place, including:

Drug treatment centers in Houston, TX

Even the best schools probably don’t have an adequate substance abuse recovery program. Most people in substance abuse treatment, even the ones who are motivated and want to stop the abuse, will relapse at least once. (About five times is the average number of attempts.) That’s why finding accredited, and professional dedicated drug treatment centers in Texas is so important. Texas finishes next-to-last for the number of available rehab slots per 100,000 drug users, but help is available. To make an educated choice, look at:

How they assess addiction

Every addiction is different. Some are linked to mental illness. Some are hereditary. Some are caused by trauma. Others are due to using a medically prescribed drug too long, too often, or in too large a dose. A good rehab determines your course of treatment only after an individual evaluation. 

Levels of treatment offered

The classic image of rehab is a residential program where the client lives on the grounds, receiving treatment, eating meals, and sleeping. This is known as inpatient substance abuse treatment.  Inpatient programs may include:
  • Monitored detoxification and medication-assisted treatments to control withdrawal. 
  • Mental health treatment, concurrent with substance abuse treatment for clients with a dual diagnosis.
  • Luxury amenities include furnishings, food, location, and holistic or additional therapies. 
  • Twelve-step facilitation to encourage membership in Narcotics Anonymous or a similar peer fellowship.
Several types of treatment are offered, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, drug education, proper nutrition, and exercise.  The advantage of this level of care is that there are fewer opportunities to relapse. It is easier to avoid triggers—the people, places, and situations that remind you of your substance abuse—and help is usually available if you relapse.  A drawback to inpatient care is that it does not test your resolve to stay sober. Inmates in prison may stop using drugs during their incarceration but resume upon release because they don’t want to stop. It is always easier to stop when you have no choice.  Another drawback is that it is expensive. During inpatient rehab, you have little or no opportunity or time to work a job or pursue an education.  Your contact with friends and family also is severely restricted. You may make new, sober friends in rehab, but those friendships don’t necessarily continue after rehab since you may live at opposite ends of the country.  For those for whom inpatient care is not always a good fit, there are several forms of outpatient care, as delineated by the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
  • Standard. The client visits the rehab center, sometimes only once a week or as needed. 
  • Intensive outpatient. The client visits the rehab three times a week, three hours a day, more if needed. 
  • Partial hospitalization. The client visits the rehab five days a week, four hours a day, 
Finally, because relapse remains a lifelong risk, you need a continuum of care. Even the best rehab eventually ends (usually after 90 days or less), so a good rehab will help you develop an aftercare plan, a strategy to help prevent relapse after you leave.  Drug rehab in Houston, Texas, isn’t necessarily easy, but it is available and worthwhile.



  1. statista.com – U.S. drug overdose age-adjusted death rates, 1999–2020
  2. bmj.com – ‘Diseases of despair’ have soared over the past decade in US
  3. news.vcu.edu – U.S. life expectancy continued to fall in 2021 
  4. socialwork.utexas.edu– State of Texas Drug Use Patterns and Trends, 2019
  5. worldpopulationreview.com – US States – Ranked by Population 2022
  6. wallethub.com/edu – Drug Use by State: 2022’s Problem Areas
  7. houstonstateofhealth.com – Death Rate due to Drug Poisoning Find an Indicator
  8. justice.gov – Dozens arrested in 105-count narcotics indictment
  9. crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov – Alcohol-Impaired Driving 2019 Data (Traffic Safety Facts July 2021)
  10. samhsa.gov – Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18 to 30
  11. houstonisd.org – Community Resource Guide
  12. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – How Many Recovery Attempts Does it Take to Successfully Resolve an Alcohol or Drug Problem? Estimates and Correlates From a National Study of Recovering U.S. Adults
  13. tea.texas.gov – Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Intervention
  14. uhv.edu – Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy 
  15. uth.edu – Substance Use Disorder – Handbook of Operating Procedures – UTHealth
  16. sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Texas Rehab Centers & Addiction Treatment
  17. medlineplus.gov – Dual Diagnosis
  18. cabhp.asu.edu – Substance Use Disorder Aftercare Treatment – Continuum Of Care
  19. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – How Many Recovery Attempts Does it Take to Successfully Resolve an Alcohol or Drug Problem? Estimates and Correlates From a National Study of Recovering U.S.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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