Substance Abuse Trends in Texas: June 2013

Jane C. Maxwell, Ph.D.

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012- early 2013 Reporting Period:

  • There was the strong and growing “love affair” and increasing use of amphetamine-type substance (ATS) drugs, based on numbers of calls to poison control centers and forensic laboratory report data.

This report updates indicators of drug abuse in Texas since the June 2012 report and describes trends by calendar year from 1987 through May 2013.

Marijuana/Synthetic cannabinoids

Cannabis demand indicators (i.e., poison control calls, treatment admissions, and toxicology laboratory items identified) were mixed, and supply indicators were down. The quality of Mexican cannabis is poor, and availability is down due to drought in Mexico. Indoor grows and hydroponic grows in Texas provide large quantities of high-quality cannabis. Synthetic cannabis indicators were increasing, and the number of items and types of cannabinoids identified in toxicology laboratories was growing.


Cocaine indicators (i.e., poison control calls, treatment, toxicology findings, and deaths) continued to decrease, with fewer seizures at the border, more diversion to Europe, use of levamisole as filler, and increased prices. Some users on the street reported the available cocaine is so weak that it is not worth the cost.


Heroin demand indicators were increasing, as were the supply indicators, although the amounts seized were down, with lower prices. Users are young, and the average age of a person dying with heroin identified in the body has dropped from 40 to 36 in 5 years.

Other Opiates

Other opiate indicators were increasing, with users of street methadone becoming more similar to users of other opioids. Drinking codeine cough syrup continued to be driven by music extolling the use of “syrup”. Abuse of prescription narcotic drugs was identified in two groups: teenagers/young adults seeking euphoria and older baby boomers seeking pain relief. Pain clinics in Houston remained a problem, even after the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA's) “King of the Pill” operation (a series of raids conducted by the DEA as part of an eight month probe on medical offices and pharmacies in Houston suspected of prescription fraud).


For this reporting period in Texas, based on numbers of calls to poison control centers and forensic laboratory report data, was the strong and growing “love affair” and increasing use of amphetamine-type substance (ATS) drugs, some of which may be emerging because of the world-wide shortage of MDMA and its precursors. The demand for some of these substances may be interrelated with the availability and quality of the other ATS drugs and cocaine. For instance, demand indicators were down for the ATS drug, MDMA, while the 2-C-xx phenethylamines (which were replacements for MDMA in the 1980s) were increasing both in use and in variations.

Synthetic Cathinones

Youth were reported to be “researching chemicals” such as the synthetic cathinones, with use increasing with more items and more types identified in forensic laboratories each year.


Methamphetamine demand indicators were close to approaching the levels of use before the pseudoephedrine ban. Supplies were increasing; prices were decreasing; and very large seizures have been reported. Liquid methamphetamine is coming in from Mexico and being converted to “ice” locally. Methamphetamine and cocaine trends may be inversely related. As of the first quarter of 2013, the purity of the P2P (phenyl-2-propanone) methamphetamine nationally was 95 percent, the potency was 83 percent, and 95 percent of the methamphetamine examined in the DEA’s special laboratory was made using the P2P process. PCP (phencyclidine) indicators were varied; increasing treatment admissions and recent seizures may indicate a resurgence of the drug. Psilocin and psilocybin indicators were emerging, as were 5-MeO tryptamines.

For inquiries regarding this report, contact Jane C. Maxwell, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin, Suite 335, 1717 West 6th Street, Austin, TX 78703, Phone: 512–232–0610, Fax: 512–232–0617, E-mail: