Gregg County Perfectly Represents Texas’ Diverse Addiction Problem

Gregg County Sherriff Maxey recently spoke before members of the Longview Griggton Rotary Club about the multi-pronged addiction threat facing Gregg County and the rest of the lone star state. The talk provided illuminating insight into the pervasive and devastating public health issue that addiction represents in Texas, as well as its impact on communities across the state. Cerliano highlighted the most urgent drug threats in the area and the conditions that lead to and sustain abuse on an individual and community level. Gregg County has experienced a steady methamphetamine problem for years, mostly because it is easy to make and it’s cheaper than heroin and cocaine, which are also readily available in the area.

The sherriff also spoke extensively of the impact that addiction was having on the county’s jail. In 2016, there were a total of 9,171 bookings at the Gregg County Jail, 2,924 of which were for possession charges. This doesn’t include arrests for drug-motivated crimes, which experts speculate can push the percentage of drug-related bookings up to 80 percent. Opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone represented about 60 percent of prescription-related arrests last year, which tallied nearly 930. One of the primary aims of Cerliano’s talk was to mobilize and empower the Gregg County community to take action against addiction whenever possible.

Although Gregg County lies about five hours northeast of Austin, it’s hard not to look at the area’s drug problem as a microcosm of the entire state of Texas. It’s also important to remember the swift and immediate nature of drug trafficking and that what happens in a town like Tyler can, and often does, easily happen in Austin or San Antonio. In a time when drug threats are only getting more diverse and sophisticated, and Texas remains ever vulnerable to international trafficking, we must all remain vigilant and committed to protecting ourselves and the people around us. This means recognizing when a loved one is vulnerable to addiction and working to guide them toward help.

Prevention activism can also mean getting involved in the formation of public policy, holding awareness events within our own communities or simply learning about the physical and behavioral pathology of each drug so we know what to look for. Although state and municipal governments are finally allocating more resources toward address collective drug addiction, it will ultimately take a certain level of community will and action in order to eradicate it.