San Antonio

a large part of the economic underbelly of San Antonio is drug trafficking

The state of Texas boasts an enormous amount of resources for individuals who are stuck in the trenches of substance abuse and wanting to climb out. San Antonio is no stranger to drug and alcohol abuse, nor the varied issues that further complicate it, like mental illness. Much of the drug culture in the famed Riverwalk city stems from its close proximity to the Mexican border and the drug trade that infiltrates the area.

Drug trafficking is a huge part of the economic underbelly of San Antonio. While state and local officials are trying to clean up the city’s reputation for drug abuse, regular headlines tout high rates of drug abuse and distribution throughout the region. Drug seizures during 2007 in the South Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, including San Antonio, amounted to:

  • 9,787 kg of cocaine
  • 74 kg of heroin
  • 282,012 kg of marijuana
  • 117 kg of methamphetamine[1]

Fortunately, San Antonio is also well equipped to treat substance abuse, too.

San Antonio Substance Abuse

population of san Antonio vs number of abuse cases across TexasThere are 1,436,697 people living in San Antonio.[2] Across Texas, 6.26 percent of residents report past-month illicit substance abuse, versus 8.02 percent of the entire nation.[3] The most commonly abused substance is marijuana.[4] Second in line is cocaine, with abuse rates high in Texas.[5]

Alcoholism affects around 17 million people in the United States.[6] Not everyone who drinks heavily is dependent though. In fact, one study notes that just 10.2 percent of individuals who drink excessively and 10.5 percent who binge drink fit the criteria for dependency.[7] Binge drinking rates across the nation are around 17.1 percent.[8]

In Bexar County, home of San Antonio, binge drinking was reported by 22 percent of adults in 2012.[9] Many of these individuals spend years denying they have a problem. Most surround themselves with others who drink as heavily as they do in effort to blend in. Thus, very few of their peers may ever single them out or confront them about their problem.

Rates of drug and alcohol abuse are specifically concerning among youths in the area. In 2013, more than a third of youths in the San Antonio area were current drinkers and large-8 medium-12 columns had reported drinking alcohol at some point in time.[10]San Antonio parents are concerned for the health and safety of their children, and for good reason. Around 31.4 percent of individuals whose deaths are caused by drug overdose are between the ages of 15 and 34.[11]

Then Comes Consequence

Criminal activity is alive and well in the drug department across the southwestern region, and Texas bears the largest brunt of it. Arrests regularly splash the pages of local newspapers for the possession and trafficking of drugs.

the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse can lead to fines and/or jail time

In June of 2015, a San Antonio man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his participation in trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine into the state from a Mexican cartel from 2000 to 2009.[12] Even simple possession of some of these drugs can warrant lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines. In addition, offenders who drink and drive are risking a lot, too. The law doesn’t look kindly upon drunk driving in the Lone Star State. Multiple offenses can earn you a couple years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.[13]

Sadly, these consequences never enter the minds of many of those who end up behind bars as a result of their actions. Of course, there are people who do consider the consequences and still forge ahead. For some, it might mean wrecking their vehicle and causing the death of an innocent driver on the road. During 2013, 6,591 people were arrested in the San Antonio region for driving under the influence and 48 people lost their lives in accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor.[14]

For others, it might mean overdosing on drugs or dying from alcohol poisoning. Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of deaths stemming from injuries in the nation. Around 44,000 people die this way each year.[15]

Influencing Factors

Area demographics may be partly to blame for the widespread rate of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. In addition, parental substance abuse has a lot of influence over how children are reared. Around 12 percent of kids in the nation live with one or more parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, and they are all at an increased risk of maltreatment.[16] Approximately 31 percent of all children who were removed from their parents’ care in 2012 were due to parental substance abuse.[17] In 2014, 5,434 children were the victims of abuse or neglect in Bexar County.[18]

The city is also home to many different cultures. With a 63.2 percent Hispanic and Latino population in San Antonio, it’s inevitable that substance abuse issues reach into the Hispanic population.[19] In 2008, 13.7 percent of admissions to publicly funded rehabilitation programs across the US were Hispanic or Latino.[20]

Mental illness is one of the biggest contributing factors to substance abuse nationwide. Some 42.5 million citizens of the United States suffer from at least one mental health disorder.[21] These disorders can be very distressing even when diagnosed and treated, so those who are unaware they are even ill tend to really struggle with daily life. Substance abuse is often a path these individuals take when trying to cope with what life is throwing at them when they just don’t understand why they feel or behave the way they do. Around half of all people who are affected by severe mental illness are also impacted by drug or alcohol abuse, and over a third of those affected by alcoholism have a mental health disorder, too. [22] [23]

Without the appropriate treatment, not only will the self-medicating practices of substance abuse continue, but they will increase the already present risk of self-harming behaviors, too. The inverse is true, as well. These behaviors are particularly common among youths, as around a third to half of the adolescent population engages in self-harming nonsuicidal practices at some point in their lives.[24]

The ultimate self-harming behavior is obviously suicide. In 2013, 41,149 people committed suicide across the United States.[25] In Texas, the suicide rate is 12.2 per 100,000 deaths.[26]

Higher rates of criminal activity are also seen among mentally ill populations, as well.

Getting Help

a graph showing that only a small percentage of people that need treatment actually seek helpThere’s no shortage of help for substance abuse and addiction issues in the San Antonio region. While there are various treatment facilities in the region, admission rates are far lower than the number of individuals who need help. Across the country, only 2.5 million people sought help for an addiction or substance abuse issue in 2013 when 22.7 million needed it.[27] In Texas, 39,676 people sought help that year.[28]

Those who qualify for Medicaid services have 11 facilities in the area to choose from that accept it.[29] Other payment options include facility assisted coverage, which means the rehab unit pays for a portion of the treatment costs, and sliding scale payment plans. With this type of plan, the individual’s income is taken into account when determining how much it will cost to render such services. Sliding scale payment plans are offered by five rehab programs in San Antonio, and nine facilities offer payment assistance programs.[30]

Generally, outpatient care is more affordable than residential treatment. This type of treatment isn’t lacking merely because the client doesn’t live at the rehab facility. The same services, ranging from therapy and support groups to medical detox, apply. With residential care, individuals may have longer support group meetings and more frequent sessions with therapists, but there’s a reason for that — people who opt for inpatient care typically need more intensive treatment. Many of these people have already completed outpatient rehab in the past and relapsed, as 40-60 percent of people in recovery do.[31]

While researching treatment centers in the Alamo City, make sure to screen the program’s credentials thoroughly. Not every rehab facility is created equal. Those that are qualified to render treatment to individuals with co-occurring disorders are going to have professionals on staff who can both diagnose and treat mental illness. If there is no doctor on staff to write prescriptions, individuals with mental illness may find themselves leaving treatment substance-free but with few resources to help them cope with mental health symptoms, like anxiety and depression. This is a big downfall of the treatment industry that is too often overlooked, as many of these symptoms lead those afflicted with mental health disorders to start using or drinking again.

Often, the theory of hitting rock bottom is touted as a necessity before people can receive help that will be effective in turning their lives around; this isn’t true. Treatment can come at any time. Many are ushered into rehab via court orders. Two facilities in the San Antonio area manage these treatment cases and accept clients who have been ordered to complete treatment.[32] Others might end up in rehab following an intervention put together by family members who care too much to see their loved one lose control.

Professionals working in the field must obtain the appropriate college degrees, ranging from an associate’s degree to doctorate degree, depending on the level of care they provide. When screening rehabilitation centers, look for the appropriate CARF credentials. The San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse is a fantastic resource that can assist people struggling with substance abuse, mental illness, or both in finding the perfect treatment regimen that fits their needs.

San Antonio is, without a doubt, one of the most gorgeous cities in Texas. But even though it is pristine and has so much to offer, there is a deep underbelly of distress in this town involving the use and abuse of drugs.

For example, in September 2015, San Antonio residents were likely surprised to read about the heroin empire operating in the back rooms of barber shops in the area. According to News Radio 1200 WOAI, more than 15 pounds of heroin was seized in that raid in the fall.

If that heroin reached into your home, or if your family has been touched by a different type of drug, you are probably looking for answers, and you may not want to leave San Antonio to get them. If so, you are in luck. That’s because there are a number of treatment facilities in the area that can provide hope, help, and therapy for people with addictions. These are just a few of them:

  1. The Right Step: People who need to attend to responsibilities at work or home while recovering from an addiction may find this program to be the right fit. Outpatient treatment classes are offered on schedules that can work with most jobs. Both day and evening classes are available, and the counselors who run the program have over 25 years of experience in helping people to overcome very serious substance abuse and mental health issues. When the intensive portion of the program is complete, there are aftercare services available that can help people to stay on the right track. Fees are affordable, and payments from some insurance programs are accepted.
  2. Rise Recovery: Sometimes, it is best to learn about recovery from people who have been through that same journey. They know how it works, and how hard it is, and they can offer a form of help others just cannot. At Rise Recovery, an outpatient treatment program for addiction, many of the counselors and staff members are in recovery. They couple their personal experiences with science-based techniques to help people to recover, even from advanced cases of addiction. In addition to individual counseling sessions, there are group formats for teenagers, adults, and families. There are no intake processes to complete. Interested parties are simply encouraged to head to a meeting to start the process.
  3. SOBA Recovery Center: This private addiction treatment program is situated on 10 acres, very close to San Antonio. This luxury facility provides high-end spa amenities and a clean and gorgeous recovery setting, augmented by robust addiction treatment tools. People who enroll have access to an expert team, including a board-certified addictionologist and a clinical psychologist. During their inpatient stay, they are provided with individual counseling, group counseling, and support group access. SOBA also provides a comprehensive evaluation, to uncover any underlying mental health issues that could complicate recovery. Payments from major insurance plans are accepted.
  4. Behavioral Health Group: This organization uses a two-pronged approach to handle addiction. The first is medication. People with addictions to opiates and opioids are provided with methadone or buprenorphine, to dampen cravings and boost treatment compliance. Then, outpatient counseling in the San Antonio center can help people learn how to use the power of the mind to beat back future cravings, whether or not medications are available. A consult with a physician is suggested, and no information about insurance is provided publically.
  5. American Drug Rehab Centers: Medical detoxification can help people to move from intoxication to sobriety without feeling incredibly sick at the same time. These services are offered at American Drug Rehab Centers, and that is followed by inpatient rehab. New patients are accepted on a rolling basis, and programs last 30-90 days. The team can help to determine the proper length of stay at intake. When the program is complete, people can tap into planning services, so they’ll be ready to succeed in the community. Admissions staff can discuss insurance payments and private-pay options.
  6. Mid-Coast Family Services: This nonprofit organization was founded to help reduce homelessness, family violence, and substance abuse. As part of that mission, the program offers substance abuse screenings and assessments. The organization can also provide crisis help for people in the midst of making terrible decisions due to addiction. The group can provide brief forms of counseling for addiction, and if those do not help, the group can provide referrals to state-funded treatment programs. There are no payments involved with these services.
  7. Laurel Ridge Treatment Center: This full-service psychiatric hospital in the middle of San Antonio can provide a number of vital services for families impacted by addiction, including crisis stabilization, medical detox, addiction therapy, and more. There are specific treatment programs for veterans and active members of the community, as well as programs for teens. The treatments are provided on an 18-acre campus that includes a pool, a library, a gym, playgrounds, and more. Admissions criteria depend on age and on the program needed. No information about payments and insurance programs is provided online.
  8. Adult and Teen Challenge of Texas: This organization provides Christian recovery services to teens with an addiction habit. Often, recovery services involve residential-based care, enhanced with 12-Step support group work and a substantial amount of prayer. There is a significant fee involved with enrollment, and beds are limited. If there is no space, teens may be placed on a waiting list. During that time, they are encouraged to listen to Christian peers and solicit advice. They are asked to demonstrate a sincere urge to get better and work toward recovery before they are accepted into the program.
  9. River City Rehabilitation Center: Alcohol and opioid drugs are common foes for people struggling with addiction. These are the two classifications of drugs treated at the River City Rehabilitation Center. The team uses medications, such as methadone, to help quell cravings. All enrollees are provided with counseling that can help them learn to cope with the challenges their newfound sobriety can bring. All services are provided on an outpatient basis. If needed, the team can network on behalf of the person with the addiction, helping to get that person enrolled in community health programs that might help, whether they are public or private. The organization does not accept insurance payments or checks.
  10. Stop SA: Medications often provide the best path to recovery for people with addictions to heroin and painkillers. But those medications should be provided in a safe environment, and they should be provided alongside counseling. That is what is on offer at Stop SA. Clients are provided with outpatient therapy, along with medication management for addiction. The organization can also help with enrollment in community programs, so people can get the extra help they need in order to really overcome a drug use problem. No insurance payments are accepted, and clients are expected to pay in cash.
  11. United Drug Rehab Group: This organization is one of the largest private addiction treatment providers in the state of Texas. There are providers located all across the state, and many are located within the San Antonio city limits. People who choose this organization can start the healing process with a medical detox program, so they can get sober without feeling ill or overwhelmed. Then, they can enroll in an inpatient rehab facility. United offers special programs for executives, and others come with luxury amenities. Intake professionals can explain the options and help people to make good choices. Most insurance program payments are accepted.
  12. Intervention Association: It has been said that it takes 30 days to form a new habit. Not coincidentally, this is the length of time it takes to complete an inpatient treatment program for addiction at Intervention Association. During that time, talented treatment teams help people to learn about their personal risk factors. And the teams use support groups to encourage people in recovery to support and learn from one another. This is a private organization that offers a luxury rehab experience. The scenery is breathtaking, and it comes with beefed-up security and privacy. Insurance payments are accepted.
  13. MedMark Treatment Centers: This organization has 22 clinic locations, including one right in the heart of San Antonio. Here, people addicted to opioids are provided with medications that can soothe cravings, and they’re given outpatient therapy that can help them to stay sober. That counseling takes place in a group format, so people with addictions have the option to learn from one another. The organization provides no online information about fees or insurance options. Call (866) 840-6658 to find out more.
  14. The Best Option, LLC.: This private counseling organization provides outpatient care for addiction. In a series of appointments, people can learn more about how addictions develop and how skills can keep drug urges in check. People can also take advantage of specialized counseling programs for anger management and domestic violence. Many major insurance program payments are accepted, and the group is willing to work out payment plans for care.
  15. Ripple Recovery Ranch: Many treatment programs utilize the 12-Step movement to help their clients stick to recovery. Ripple Recovery Ranch is different. This organization uses a very different approach that blends equine therapy, meditation, church attendance, mindfulness, yoga, and breath work in concert with traditional recovery therapy to boost the chances of healing. All of that work takes place in luxurious surroundings, located very close to San Antonio. Additional amenities include gourmet meals, vitamin supplementation, massage therapy, and neurofeedback. Most insurance plans accepted. Space is very limited, as the program is designed to provide individualized support.
  16. Covenant Hills: For two decades, Covenant Hills has provided addiction treatment that is focused on the whole person. That means program administrators work hard to understand how a specific addiction developed before they develop a treatment program for that person. Administrators encourage all their clients to establish or repair a connection with God, starting at the beginning of treatment and moving to discharge. Residential treatment, intensive inpatient treatment, and day treatment programs are all available. Prices are reasonable. Treatment comes with a guarantee too. People who complete the program and relapse are eligible to return for a free week of care.
  17. Alpha Home: Women 18 or older with an addiction issue can get help at Alpha Home. The treatments are provided in a home-like residential setting, based on more than 40 years of clinical experience. Those who do not need care in such a controlled environment can choose outpatient care, or they could move into a transitional housing program for added support. There is an outpatient program too, and it is made for either men or women. People must be evaluated before enrollment, and not everyone who is interested is eligible for care.
  18. Local hospitals: It is easy to forget that local hospitals can help with some aspects of addiction, but they can. People in the midst of a medical crisis should head to a hospital for help, and those struggling with at-home detox should do the same. Once the crisis has passed, the hospital may provide additional counseling or support services. People should ask about those services.


[1] “South Texas Border and San Antonio Market Areas.” (Apr 2008). National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed September 25, 2015.[2] “State & County QuickFacts.” (2014). United States Census Bureau. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[3] “Texas Drug Control Update.” (n.d.). White House. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Alcohol Use Disorder.” (n.d.). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[7] Esser, M.B., Hedden, S.L., Kanny, D., Brewer, R.D., Gfroerer, J.C. & Naimi, T.S. (2014 Nov 20). “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009-2011.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[8] “Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, Intensity Among Adults — United States, 2010.” (2012 Jan 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[9] “Bexar County Community Health Assessment Report.” (2013). University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Overdose: A National Crisis Taking Root in Texas.” (n.d.). Drug Policy Alliance. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[12] Contreras, G. (2015 Jun 8). “San Antonio resident who ran vital drug smuggling network for Zetas cartel gets 35 years in prison.” My San Antonio. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[13] “Texas DUI and DWI Laws.” (n.d.). NOLO. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[14] Joseph, D. &Malik, A. (2014 Mar 24). “”S.A.’s DWI death stats double in 24 hours.” San Antonio Express-News. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[15] Brooks, M. (2015 Jun 17). “Drug Overdose Now Leading Cause of Injury-Related Deaths.” Medscape. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[16] “Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System.” (Oct 2014). Child Welfare Information Gateway. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Stoeltje, M.F. (2015 Mar 18). “Putting a face on child abuse.” San Antonio Express-News.Accessed September 25, 2015.

[19] “State & County QuickFacts.” (2014). United States Census Bureau. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[20] “Treatment Statistics.” (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[21] “State Estimates of Adult Mental Illness from the 2011 and 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.” (2014 Feb 28). SAMHSA. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[22] “Substance Abuse and Mental Health.” (n.d.). Helpguide. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[23] “Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness.” (n.d.). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[24] Peterson, J., Freedenthal, S., Sheldon, C. & Andersen, R. (2008 Nov 5). “Nonsuicidal Self injury in adolescents.” Psychiatry. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[25] “Facts and Figures.” (n.d.). American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[26] “United States Suicide.” (n.d.). America’s Health Rankings. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[27] “Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings.” (2014 Sep 4). SAMHSA. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[28] “Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions by Primary Substance of Abuse.” (2013). SAMHSA.Accessed September 25, 2015.

[29] “Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.” (n.d.). SAMHSA. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “’Mindfulness’ Meditation Can Help Reduce Addiction Relapse Rates.” (n.d.). National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. Accessed September 25, 2015.

[32] “Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.” (n.d.). SAMHSA. Accessed September 25, 2015.

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