Among those displaced by Hurricane Katrina are thousands of of drug addicts, seeking drug fixes, recovery, or compassion in temporary homes, reports the Baltimore Sun. In places from Alexandria and Baton Rouge, La., to Houston and San Antonio, addiction counselors already have full caseloads and, in some cases, all staffed treatment beds are full. Some addicts who relocated to shelters have sought prescriptions for the painkiller OxyContin and other narcotics. Others tell intake workers they are in a perilous phase of recovery – in need of methadone to keep withdrawal and drug cravings at bay. Others are given away by the body tremors, sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting that withdrawal can bring.
Some addicts arrived at shelters with counselors who, rousted by Katrina, chose to stay with addicts as they fled treatment or halfway houses in the path of the storm. They made their way together to shelters, churches and, in some cases, treatment centers in other locales, ensuring continued treatment. How the migration of Gulf Coast users will affect the availability of drug treatment and the patterns of illegal drug trade over time isn’t clear. New Orleans wasn’t known as a major entry point for drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration says that Mexican, Colombian, and Caribbean traffickers bring cocaine into the state via interstate highways from Miami and Houston. Louisiana’s Southeast parishes had an epidemic problem with abuse of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin. New Orleans also had a significant heroin problem, while rural areas struggled more with methamphetamine.