Officials: Substance abuse rising in Montgomery County

Montgomery County officials and community leaders are working to suppress an increasing substance abuse trend as the popularity of synthetic drugs rises among younger residents.

The county already has a reputation of leading Texas in DWIs—from 2010-16, Montgomery County had 180 DWI-related fatality crashes, according to the district attorney’s office. Of those, more than half involved a controlled substance.

Officials: Substance abuse rising in Montgomery County “That number is continuing to increase each year, and that tells us that more people are abusing medicine and drugs besides just drinking alcohol,” said Tyler Dunman, Montgomery County assistant district attorney and special crimes bureau chief.

Additionally, Dunman said roughly 60-70 percent of all crimes committed in Montgomery County are somehow tied to substance abuse.

Drug scene

Although county officials agree alcohol continues to be the most abused substance in Montgomery County because of its legality, marijuana, methamphetamine and synthetic drugs are also prominent.

Drugs like methamphetamine are more popular on the outskirts of the county where the drug is easier to cook. Marijuana, on the other hand, is popular across the board, officials said.

Although synthetic drugs are easy to obtain and use, they are difficult to detect on traditional drug tests, making them a popular substance of choice for younger users, according to local officials.

Officials: Substance abuse rising in Montgomery County “Synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous because no one knows what’s in them,” said David Hanna, The Right Step Affiliate Manager.“From one batch to the next, they’re completely different—there’s no quality control. Just one use can lead to death or permanent brain injury, and we’ve seen over and over again where a first-time user tries synthetic marijuana and never recovers.”

In 2016, Montgomery County had 82 overdose or drug-related deaths; as of May, the county has seen 17 so far this year, Dunman said.

Addressing addiction

Even though Montgomery County is home to several outpatient addiction centers, Evan Roberson, Tri-County Behavioral Health Care executive director, said the county is in desperate need of a detox facility and a residential substance abuse treatment center for medically indigent individuals.

While detox centers serve as a short-term solution for abusers to rid their systems of substances while experiencing withdrawal symptoms, residential treatment facilities are typically 60-90 day programs.

“Residential treatment allows drugs to get completely out of a person’s system and [teaches them] how to handle their lives without the drug,” Roberson said. “That residential component is huge, and it’s completely absent in Montgomery County.”

Hanna said another reason substance abuse treatment is lacking in Montgomery County is because it tends to be viewed as a criminal justice issue rather than a mental health issue.

“We have a history in Texas of using the legal system as our first line of defense against drug abuse,” Hanna said. “While some acts related to drug use are criminal, drug use itself is a mental health issue and needs to be treated as such. It’s negligent to use jail as the way to treat this problem.”

Roberson said patients at Tri-County Health Care who have mental health issues tend to also have problems with substance abuse and vice versa.

Officials: Substance abuse rising in Montgomery County “You’d be challenged to find any family that’s not impacted by substance abuse, whether it be alcoholism or drugs—nothing can devastate a life as thoroughly as addiction,” Hanna said. “When lives around us are being devastated, we have a social obligation to help.”

By taking a mental health approach to substance abuse, educating the youth and adding treatment resources, Dunman said he hopes the county can curb substance abuse and save lives.

“By addressing the underlying drug abuse issues, pushing people to get help and educating the youth, hopefully, we can avoid the long-term issues associated with rising drug abuse in the county,” he said.

By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


Texas Medical Center continued to see week-over-week decreases in the total number of active COVID-19 hospitalizations but also saw a significant increase in patient deaths, the medical center reported May 29. (Community Impact staff)
Texas Medical Center sees another week-over-week decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Texas Medical Center continued to see week-over-week decreases in the total number of active COVID-19 hospitalizations but also saw a significant increase in patient deaths, the medical center reported May 29.

The Willie's Grill & Icehouse restaurant in Copperfield is temporarily closed after reopening in mid-May. (Courtesy Willie's Grill & Icehouse Copperfield)
Study predicts coronavirus spike and other top Houston-area stories

Read some of the most popular Houston-area content on Community Impact Newspaper’s website from this week.

The syrup drums being repurposed into rain barrels were donated from Coca-Cola. (Courtesy Galveston Bay Foundation)
Galveston Bay Foundation to host virtual, drive-thru rain barrel workshop

The Kemah-based nature conservation nonprofit is hosting a rain barrel workshop this weekend for Houstonians thirsting for a way to help conserve the community’s water supply.

The Woodlands Transit will reopen The Woodlands Express Sawdust Park and Ride on June 1. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)
The Woodlands Express to resume Sawdust Park and Ride service June 1

The lot is one of two The Woodlands Express park and ride locations that have been closed since late March.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is set to resume Oct. 3 with safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy Texas Renaissance Festival)
Texas Renaissance Festival announces tentative modifications for 2020 season

In a May 28 statement, General Manager Joseph Bailey said new safety measures are in the works to comply with governmental recommendations, and an operating plan is expected to be reviewed with officials in June.

Riva Row Boat House
GALLERY: Restrictions in Montgomery County easing, but residents remain cautious

Click through this photo gallery to see how residents are slowly adapting to life during a pandemic.

Conroe ISD will distribute meals until the end of June. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Conroe ISD to continue meal distributions through June

The district will offer meal pickups Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-noon through June.

Woodlands pool swim
Plans for pool openings, Fourth of July event move forward in The Woodlands

Seven village pools in The Woodlands will open June 6 with 25% capacity under current social distancing guidelines.

The death total in Harris County now stands at 221. With 11,770 cases confirmed in the county, the death rate stands at 1.9%. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1 new death confirmed May 28, 8 deaths over past 7 days

By comparison, 23 deaths were confirmed between May 16-22, and 39 deaths were confirmed between May 9-15.

Klein Oak High School graduating senior Christopher Jones II received a variety of gift items from community member Rachael. (Courtesy Allanda Nichols)
Greater Houston-area graduating seniors celebrated through online community

Seniors of the graduating Class of 2020 are being celebrated with gifts and well-wishes through organized Facebook groups and "adopt-a-senior" programs created by Greater Houston-area community members.

Health Care Snapshot 2020: Harris County ranked among top 25 counties for length of life

In terms of county health in 2020, Harris County ranked among the top 25 on length of life.