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Is There an Opioid Epidemic in Texas?

March 31, 2019

There is a nationwide opioid epidemic, and of course, that opioid epidemic affects every state differently. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 2016 there were 1,375 people who died from opioid-related overdoses in the state of Texas. That was a rate of 4.9 deaths for every 100,000 people. While that is much less than the national average of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people, it would be hard to deny that Texas is facing its own opioid epidemic.

In 2017, almost 3,000 Texans died because of drug overdoses, which was a higher number than the population of a Texas 6A high school. Among Texas students who are in grades 7 to 12, about nine percent have misused codeine cough syrup while 4 percent admitted to having misused other opioids at least once. About 5 percent of all college students in Texas have admitted to the misuse of opioids.

Heroin deaths increased from 260 to 530 deaths from 2010 to 2016 in the state. Deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased from 156 to 250 annually in Texas during that same timeframe. Texas medical providers wrote 58 opioid prescriptions per 100 people during 2015. That totaled 15.9 million prescriptions for opioids. For that same timeframe, the national average was 70 prescriptions per 100 people.

Prescription Opioid Misuse in Texas

Because part of the problem with the opioid epidemic in Texas revolves around who can get access to the painkillers, the Texas Legislature changed the laws, so Texas-licensed pharmacies are now required to report all controlled substances that are dispensed to the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program no later than the following business day after the prescription was filled.

The Texas Hospital Association reports they see the effects of the growing opioid epidemic on a daily basis. Opioids were the cause of 70 percent of the drug overdose deaths across the country during 2016, which was five times the number of overdose deaths blamed on opioids in 1999. Texas hospitals treat numerous people who misuse or abuse opioids or who suffer from opioid overdoses.

Opioid misuse and addiction cost Texas about $20 billion every year with non-fatal opioid costing $202 per capita in Texas, and with all costs, including the loss of life, totaling $706 per capita. Texas Medicaid claims for opioid-related emergency department visits saw an increase of 40 percent from 2008 to 2011.

Texas State Laws Pertaining to Opioids

The Texas Medical Board Sunset Bill – SB 315 – allows the Texas Medical Board to inspect any uncertified pain management facilities or clinics. There must be established grounds for inspection, based on the numbers of patients served, the combination and volume of medications prescribed, and other criteria that are deemed necessary for the inspection.

The Texas Medical Board adopted guidelines for prescribing opioid antagonists, which address prescribing the antagonist for a patient who also has a prescription for an opioid and identifying the patients who are at-risk for opioid-related overdoses. Because of the Texas opioid epidemic, more laws are likely to be enacted to help curb the misuse of opioids.

The team at Fears Nachawati is dedicated to helping right these injustices which have destroyed families and crippled small communities, and we are fighting this battle on multiple legal fronts, including representing public entities in Texas that have suffered financially and representing families who have had babies born with complications due to opioid addiction. The heavy toll of the opioid epidemic has weighed too heavily, and for far too long, but forecasts only predict that things will get worse if actions are not taken.

If you represent a public entity struggling under the weight of the opioid epidemic, then please contact our Opioid Rapid Response team by emailing, by calling (866) 705-7584, or by visiting the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.


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