Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas

ADACDET Beaumont office employees are Julie King, liaison counselor; Kara Wharto

The Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas is seeing a rise in abuse of meth, opiates and synthetic marijuana in the area.

Kara Wharton, a licensed chemical dependency counselor and team leader at the Beaumont office of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas (ADACDET), said the non-profit organization services around 90-100 clients a month and the three aforementioned problems are the most common addictions seen.

“The numbers are growing,” Wharton said. “In this area, it’s methamphetamine” that’s most abused.

Synthetic marijuana is a growing problem as well, she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of that,” Wharton said. “The (centers) have trouble detoxing them because they don’t know what’s in it. One bad batch or one bad hit and you’ll be in a diaper in a nursing home the rest of your life. I have seen quite a few clients where you can tell that’s what they do before they even tell you. They’re a little bit slower — their speech as well as their thought process. They might have a tick. They’re smoking rat poison or whatever happens to be in there.”

Wharton said natural marijuana is not as harmless as people think, either.

The push for legalization of marijuana in states is leading to a belief that the drug is OK to use, she said, pointing to a recent interview with former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) on Yahoo! News.

Kennedy says that lobbyists pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana are trying to sell the public on a “Trojan horse” — making the drug seem more normalized and acceptable in society, though it still has dangerous effects on minors.

“The public’s health doesn’t stand a chance in this fight because we’re up against money that is going to continue to grow as this industry spreads,” Kennedy said, comparing marijuana proponents to the big tobacco industry.

“What I worry about is marijuana sapping the motivation and cognition of our young people,” Kennedy said. “So they might not end up on a slab because they OD’d on fentanyl, because they were originally addicted to OxyContin, but their lives may end up becoming permanently disabled. Essentially, they’re missing in action. They’re not killed in action. They’re missing in action.”

Wharton concurs.

“It’s coming in as not dangerous,” she said. “It’s a segue into everything else. I really believe it is a gateway drug.”

IV drug use is on the rise as well, Wharton said.

“Some are using meth. A lot of people are doing Dilaudid. Some are doing heroin,” she said. “IV use is just rampant. Heroin is coming on strong because it is so difficult to get prescription pain meds.”

Besides the dangers of the drugs themselves, sharing needles is the most common way to contract hepatitis C, a dangerous infection that attacks the liver and may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Education on drugs and their dangers is one of the many services that ADACDET’s Beaumont office offers. Their location at 755 S. 11th St., Suite 205, opened about 18 months ago, Wharton said.

ADACDET has the OSAR (Outreach Screening Assessment & Referral) grant for Region 5 in Texas from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“The OSAR program is designed to reach out to those individuals living in Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties who have no means to pay for the treatment of substance abuse,” Wharton said. “We set appointments with clients who have Medicaid, Medicare, no insurance at all and those who may have insurance, but may not be able to meet their co-pays or deductibles. We work closely with the Department of Family Protective Services, probation offices in various counties, the judicial system, as well as individuals and families desiring help for addiction. In addition to providing referrals to substance abuse treatment facilities, we provide referrals for services including mental health screenings, housing, medical services, employment sources and many more.”

Although ADACDET works with a lot of clients referred by Child Protective Services case workers and probation officers, anyone can get referral help for substance abuse.

“If you are having problems with alcohol or drugs, you can call us,” Wharton said. “We’re basically where people can come to be screened and have their level of care determined. If someone has insurance, they need to call the number on the back of their card and find out their deductible. If they can’t afford it, we can get them on to state funding. No one is turned away for an interview. We don’t charge for our services.”

In addition to the Beaumont office, ADACDET screenings are available at the Gulf Coast Health Center at 2548 Memorial Blvd. in Port Arthur on Thursdays and Fridays and Gulf Coast Health Center at 1301 W. Park in Orange on Mondays and Tuesdays.

ADACDET refers to detoxification and substance abuse treatment facilities in the area including Baptist Hospital and the Spindletop Center in Beaumont. For more information or to make an appointment, call (409) 600-2427. You can also visit www.adacdet.org.

The spring issue of Vital Signs magazine is now available. Call (409) 832-1400 for more information.

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