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
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