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David Pellerin/Caller-Times

Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor David Blanchard (left) discusses X-rays with medical student Javier Campos. Blanchard says the extent of drug abuse he has observed in Corpus Christi far exceeds anywhere else he has worked, including Chicago.

Doctor: City high in drug abuse

ER physician says substances range from heroin to alcohol

By Jeremy Schwartz

When David E. Blanchard came to Corpus Christi three years ago to become the chief of the emergency room at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial, he was a 20-year veteran, having worked at hospitals in Chicago, Arizona and Victoria.

But it only took a month at the city's busiest emergency room to discover that Corpus Christi wasn't like the other places he had worked.

"Corpus is a city highly infested with people using illicit drugs," said Blanchard, 50. "Of all the emergency departments I've worked . . . this is probably the area most populated with drug use."

That translates to everything from what he calls a growing number of heroin overdoses, to paint sniffing to crack and powder cocaine to the occasional ecstasy incident.

"We see a potpourri of everything you can imagine, either legal or illegal," Blanchard said.

The doctor also sees a variety of people involved in overdoses or drug-related accidents.

Drug use is not confined to lower socioeconomic levels or minority groups, he said.

"Many people under the influence of alcohol and substances are working people or professionals," he said.

"They are functional to the point where you wouldn't notice they were on drugs until they are tested."

Blanchard said the most common illegal drug-related ailments are from cocaine users who come in with their heart racing and are worried they are going to die.

Such people are generally habitual users who happened to take more than usual or got hold of an unusually pure grade of the drug.

Heroin use is not as prevalent as that of cocaine, but it is on the upswing, Blanchard said.

But Blanchard said that, by far, the drug most abused by ER patients is alcohol, and accidents related to that legal drug outpace those connected to illegal drugs by a wide margin.

Blanchard also said that alcohol abuse and alcohol-related accidents occur at a higher rate in Corpus Christi than in any of the other places he's worked.

Contact Jeremy Schwartz at 886-3618 or

November 19, 2001

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