San Antonio Strangulated: Attacking the Drug Problem

Updated on December 8, 2017

The Problems

San Antonio has been facing an epidemic drug problem that has been eating away at the heart and soul of the city and the citizens. With that said, the primary drug market for the Mexican cartels in the South Texas region has been the city of San Antonio. Additionally, San Antonio is the largest city in the region with 1.3 million people making the city the most populated drug market in the region. However, the population of San Antonio is the not the reason it has become the primary drug market and reports more drug abusers than any other area in the South Texas region. The real reasons why San Antonio has become a hotspot for drug abusers in the South Texas region is because Bexar County is the central location for drug production in South Texas, serves as a transshipment center for Mexican Drug trafficking organizations and is also a distribution center for the wholesale of illicit drugs throughout the United States.

First, Bexar County has become the primary area for the manufacturing of methamphetamine more commonly known by the street name "ice.” states, “Bexar County is the primary location for methamphetamine production within the South Texas HIDTA region”(South Texas Border). However, not only is meth produced in Bexar County, but users also grow small amounts of cannabis. Furthermore, Mexican cartels are also trafficking large quantities methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine into the city. Pseudoephedrine is a chemical found in cold medicines and used in the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine. Additionally, with Mexican cartels trafficking in production chemicals and methamphetamine, and with the manufacturing of methamphetamine in the city it gives users almost an endless supply of methamphetamine to consume.

Secondly, San Antonio also serves as an intermediate destination for the Mexican cartel's illicit drugs coming from Mexico. also states, “San Antonio serves as a transshipment center for Mexican DTOs as a result of its proximity to Mexico and its extensive transportation network” (South Texas Border). Furthermore, San Antonio is 150 miles away from the U.S-Mexico border and is not under the same law enforcement and scrutiny that the border towns receive. As a result, the Mexican cartels are setting up specialized drug transportation cells in the city. Additionally, the primary roads that serve the city of San Antonio also provide the Mexican cartels a transportation network to all most all other drug markets in the United States. Furthermore, the same highways in San Antonio also connect directly to the U.S-Mexico border. With San Antonio serving as an intermediate destination for illicit drugs, it gives more chances for the drugs to make their way into the hands of street-level dealers.

Finally, San Antonio is used as a distribution center to deliver the wholesale of illicit drugs to other parts of the United States. also states, “Mexican DTOs use San Antonio as a national-level distribution center for wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine” (South Texas Border). Mexican cartels use the city’s large population base to cover their illegal operations, some even use family ties and established criminal connections to keep control over the wholesale drug distribution in San Antonio (South Texas Border). Furthermore, that combo has given the Mexican cartels the prime location for their illegal drug and money stash houses, and the ability to keep firm control over their distribution operations. However, not only does national-level distribution take place in San Antonio, but local level distribution takes place in the city also. With the local level of drug dealing taking place, it results in more local crimes being committed by abusers to fuel their habits.

The Consequences

As a consequence, the city’s workforce has a more significant amount of substance abusers in the workforce. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “nearly 75 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users” (qtd. in Steven Bull). Furthermore, research has shown that business owners lose almost $100 billion a year because of substance abuse in the workforce (bull). Additionally, substance abusers contribute about two-thirds less than their non-using counterparts at work, and they result in increased thefts, broken equipment and other avoidable costs in the workplace (bull). From an economic standpoint, this is unacceptable as it drives up the cost to the average consumer.

Another result of having more substance abusers in the city experiences more crime. Phil Williams, director of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, states, "They are so desperate for this drug they'll carjack you. They'll stick a gun or knife in your face. Their addiction controls them” (qtd. in Amy Edwards). Furthermore, these substances abusers burglarize homes to steal money, or other items to sell to fuel their addictions. Additionally, substance abusers also provide street gangs a source of income by buying their illegal goods and fueling the black market demand for more of the illicit substance. In return, this just creates a vicious cycle that repeats itself and once again will cost the law abiding citizen more money.

Proposal to the Problem

Now the proposal to reduce the amount of substance abuse in the city is simple and is cost effective. The substance abuse problem in San Antonio can be countered by combining criminal justice with treatment programs, adding more social behavioral therapies programs and by reducing the treatment gap.

First, one of the most significant problems with substance abuse is the treatment gap among the community. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “In 2011, 21.6 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, but only 2.3 million received treatment…” Some of the ways to reduce this gap are by increasing the amount of access to treatment, lowing the social stigma associated with substance abuse, and raising the public awareness of the problem. Just by alerting the public to the problem the city is taking an enormous step forward to reducing substance abuse across the city.

Secondly, San Antonio can counter this issue by combining criminal justice with treatment programs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Initiating drug abuse treatment in prison and continuing it upon release is vital to both individual recovery and to public health and safety’ (Principles of Drug). Furthermore, studies have shown that substance abusers that enter treatment under legal pressure have just as favorable outcomes as those who come to therapy voluntarily (Principles of Drug). Additionally, other studies have shown that combing prison and community treatments for substance abuse offenders have reduced both risks to relapse and other drug-related crime compared to those that receive no treatment while in prison (Principles of Drug).With these facts pointed out, most substance abusers will encounter the criminal justice system at one point in their life, and if we can take advantage of that, the city will benefit greatly from combining treatment with justice

Finally, another step to reduce drug addiction in the city is to add more social behavioral therapies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Behavioral approaches help engage people in drug abuse treatment, provide incentives for them to remain abstinent, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse, and increase their life skills to handle stressful circumstances…” In total, there are eight total behavioral therapies that have proven to help people in staying abstinent from drug abuse, but for this plan only one has to be implemented which is the twelve-step facilitation therapy. Furthermore, the twelve-step facilitation therapy uses three key ideas. These three key ideas are acceptance, surrender, and active involvement. The first key idea “acceptance” involves the user coming to the understanding that drug addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that they have no control over and has caused their lives to become uncontrollable, and willpower alone is not enough to overcome their problem (Principles of Drug). The second key idea “surrender” involves the user to give over to a higher power, accepting the support structure and following the outline laid out by the twelve-step program (Principles of Drug). The third fundamental idea is active involvement with the twelve-step meetings and activities involved (Principles of Drug). The twelve-step program has established itself as one of the leading programs to help individuals remain abstinence from substance abuse.

Justification and Cons

The justification for this proposal is that drug addiction cost the city money every year, but treatment can reduce this cost and return money to the city. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ”Substance abuse costs our Nation over $600 billion annually and treatment can help reduce these costs.” Additionally, for every dollar invested for treating drug abuse, the program returns between $4 and $7 into society and creates more workplace productivity, fewer drug-related crime takes place, fewer overdoses, and deaths from drug abuse (Principles of Drug). Fewer offenses and fatalities alone offers enough justification for this plan.

However, some say they are cons to a state-run treatment program. According to New Beginnings, “With a limited budget, it is no surprise that these facilities sometimes have to make do with what they have. This means that they occasionally use the same methodology that has been around for decades because upgrades cost money.” Now New Beginnings also says, “Many of these programs are available free of charge for eligible participants. Even though the procedures may not be as up-to-date as with privacy rehab and though the facility might not be as nice as luxury treatment options, some patients are simply unable to spend even a dime on treatment.” This access to free treatment is vital for the citizens of San Antonio if the city is to reduce the amount of substance abuse it is currently facing.

With everything stated, this is a cost-effective way to part a dent now only in the drug abuse problem, but also the Mexican cartels that are now starting to call the city of San Antonio home. By implementing criminal justice with treatment programs, adding twelve-step programs and lower treatment gap in the city we can not only start to cure the city but begin harming the black market trade of the illegal goods. However, if the city does not start to take actions now, the new drug capital of the United States may soon become San Antonio, Texas.


Bourne, Nina. “Drug Use in San Antonio, TX.” Health Street. Sansei Inc. 9, Oct 2015. Web

Bull, Steven. “We all pay the price for substance abuse.” San Antonio Business Journal. Advance Publications. 30, Nov 2012.

Edwards, Amy. “Violent crimes follow prescription-drug abuse.” Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. 25, Nov 2010. Web.

“Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” National Institute on Drug Abuse. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Dec 2012. Web.

Ring, Wilson. “How America's 'heroin city' is turning itself around.” San Antonio Express-News. Hearst Corporation. 20, Oct 2015.

“South Texas Border and San Antonio Market Areas.” The United States Department of Justice. 2008. Web


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