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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What State Leads In Illicit Drug Use and Underage Drinking?

What state leads the nation (per capita) in illicit drug use
as well as in underage drinking per capita?

Make an educated guess. Did you say California, Florida, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, New York, or Colorado? Good guesses for some obvious reasons. But whatever you said, I bet you were wrong.

The answer is Vermont. Yes, I said, "Vermont."

The small state of Vermont (the 45th largest US State and the second least populous) has so many plusses. Per capita, the state leads the nation with the most writers, libraries, colleges, Iraq War veterans, and Peace Corps volunteers. Most people think of Vermont as a natural paradise housing the beautiful Green Mountains and forests that produce delicious maple syrup -- a geographical, cultural and social gem.

In addition, in 2009, Vermont was also ranked by the United Health Foundation as the “healthiest” state in the country, with a low rate of obesity and childhood poverty. This high rank may be changing. The ranking certainly seems ironic considering that Vermont also ranks highest in the nation per capita for illicit drug use, as well as for underage drinking. It appears that Vermont has always had relaxed attitudes toward drugs -- now, they ravage the state.

15% of people in Vermont say they have used drugs within the past month (compared to 4.2% in Utah, where drug use is the lowest), according to 2010-2011 surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The state ranked high for almost every type of drug, from marijuana to cocaine.

And although the rate has slowed a bit since the 1990s, another national survey shows that 37 percent of teenagers in the Green Mountains drank beer, wine, and/or liquor during the past month.

(Matthew Mientka. "Vermont Leads The Nation In Illicit Drug Use: 15% Of Population Has 'Used' Within Past Month." medicaldaily.com. October 15, 2013)

What is to blame for the high rates of abuse?

* Is is high personal incomes that contribute to more disposable cash?

* Maybe the disparaging rates are the effects of particularly cloudy and cold weather?

* With the most miles of unpaved roadway in the country, and deep pockets resistant to cellular coverage by AT&T, much of Vermont’s drug problem may derive from its location.

* Or, should the blame go to the liberal politics of the state? Well, maybe all of these are factors, but most experts look far beyond these factors.

Highly Contributing Factors to Illicit Drug Use In Vermont

Barbara Cimaglio, the Vermont Department of Health's deputy commissioner for alcohol and drug abuse programs, believes that marijuana accounts for a large portion of the state's drug use. Vermont ranked highest in the U.S. for marijuana use, with about 13% of people saying they've used it in the past month.

One contributing factor to the high use points to trafficking from out-of-state drug dealers, likely because the state has highways that feed into big cities. "I think Vermont is really in sort of a perfect storm because we're on that highway between Montreal, Boston, New York, and also going to Philadelphia," Cimaglio said.

Seven Days, an independent newspaper in Vermont, reported earlier this year that cops reported "staggering" amounts of heroin have been coming into the state from big-city dealers who can sell the drug at a higher price in Vermont. The drug is coming from urban areas such as New York City; Philadelphia; Lowell and Holyoke, Massachusetts; Albany; and even Chicago and Detroit.

A bag of heroin that would cost $5 in a big city can sell for as much as $30 in Rutland, Vermont, the city's police chief James Baker told the newspaper. Vermont is seeing an uptick in heroin use, Cimaglio confirmed. Prescription drug use has also risen dramatically in Vermont, as it has around the country, the Burlington Free Press reported in 2011.

Yet, Baker cautions that it’s simplistic to blame the heroin surge solely on outsiders. One of the biggest busts in his area implicated a Vermonter. On April 24, 2013, federal prosecutors charged Alan H. Willis II of Tinmouth with heroin trafficking, alleging he had been purchasing and selling 1200 bags a week since last June — or as much as 38,400 bags of heroin over the past 10 months.

(Andy Bromage. "Powder Trail: Tracing Vermont's Heroin Epidemic to Its Sources."
Seven Days. May 13, 2013) 


Josh, a 23-year-old with an easygoing stoner charisma familiar to anyone who grew up in the area, is a Vermonter born and bred in a small farm in Colchester. Josh had quite a report to give reporter Gina Tron of vice.com ...

"Josh has run heroin to Vermont from New Jersey six times in the last 18 months. His suppliers hand Josh 25 bricks of the stuff and tell them it’s his responsibility until he gets to Vermont and to 'hide it good.' Heroin is much cheaper in the big cities to the south than it is in the Green Mountain State, and Josh takes full advantage of this—he can make $600 off of $10 worth of the raw he buys. He doesn’t have much in the way of professional ethics. 'I’ve ripped people off by throwing hot cocoa in an empty bag,' he told Tron. 'Scoop a little dirt off the ground and throw that in there, dude.'

"Unloading the dope in Vermont is a cinch, since practically everybody Josh knows uses heroin. 'There’s nothing else to do,' he explained. 'It’s easier to find heroin than it is to find weed nowadays.' Josh got into the drug when he was 21; he first tried it when a friend offered him some to cheer him up during a bad day. Now as soon as he scores dope he goes to his car and snorts it. 'I don’t really care if anybody sees me because I know they probably do it too,' he said, before shrugging and flashing a bright smile."

(Gina Tron. "The Brown Mountain State." vice.com. December 10, 2013)


The drug abuse has gotten so bad that in 2014, Governo Peter Shumlin spent his entire 34-minute State of the State address talking about Vermont's "full-blown heroin crisis." In 2000, 399 people were treated for heroin abuse in Vermont. By 2012, that number shot up to 3,479. According to the Vermont Department of health, the trend seems to be hitting the 25-34 age group especially hard.

Clay Gilbert, the director of Evergreen Substance Abuse Services, an outpatient treatment center in Rutland, says to understand when and how major problems with prescription drugs and heroing came to Vermont, you have to go back to the mid 1990s. He explains ...

"'At that time,' he says, 'crack was starting to get popular. And if you think of it from a business model, having a lot of people addicted to crack cocaine is not a good business model because people don't last very long on crack cocaine. They keep dying off.' He point out, 'But, people can be on opiates for 10, 20, 30 years. So it's a much better drug to have people on if you're thinking of it from an organized crime model.'

Gilbert says drug traffickers switched from crack to heroin and began introducing it to all the major communities in Vermont. 'And a lot of their sales pitch - they specifically went after area young people was, this is really good stuff. You don't have to shoot it up to get high and nobody really gets addicted if they just snort it. So that got the ball rolling as far as opiates go.'"

(Nina Keck. "Surge In Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse In Vt. Towns."
Vermont Public Radio. October 15, 2012)

Stacey C. Sigmon, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, reports, "To fight the Vermont epidemic, Continued expansions in methadone and buprenorphine treatment capacity are crucial to respond appropriately to Vermont’s opioid abuse epidemic. In the meantime, however, wait-listed Vermonters are at high risk for overdose, premature death, injection drug use and infectious disease during these delays in treatment."

In a continuing clinical trial at the University of Vermont, researchers are developing a new approach whereby wait-listed, opioid-dependent Vermonters receive buprenorphine medication, dispensed through a computerized abuse-deterrent device, while they await entry to a more comprehensive treatment program.

Data thus far suggest that patients receiving interim buprenorphine treatment have marked reductions in illicit opioid use and drug injection behavior compared with those who remain on a wait list alone.

(Stacey C. Sigmon. "Vermont Heroin Epidemic." Letter to the Editor.
The New York Times. March 04, 2015)

The Good Fight

To me, Vermont is an interesting state to study in relation to things like proposed marijuana legalization, gateway drugs to heroin such as marijuana and alcohol, and some very strong community involvement in the face of a crisis.


God bless the efforts of Rutland, Vermont, in their "call to arms" to end their heroin epidemic. It is both wonderfully proactive and reactive. James W. Baker, a former director of the Vermont State Police, who brought in as police chief in of Rutland in 2012 to overhaul the department, and, block by block, citizens of Rutland have been fighting the scourge.

Governor Peter Shumlin praised the people of Rutland and their efforts that have raised a sense of solidarity in this town of 17,000. They are taking actions to move ahead with efforts to help reclaim their neighborhoods and their young people, not to mention their reputation.

ince acknowledging the problem, the police have come to view addiction as a disease, not just a law enforcement issue, and have joined with social service providers to take a more data-driven, coordinated approach to homes with multiple problems. City agencies and residents have joined forces to revitalize their neighborhoods and eliminate blight.

According to Seelye ...


"It became clear that the city could not arrest its way out of addiction and that the police alone could not handle the multiple issues that were arising from drug abuse. And so the police began meeting with social workers, advocates for victims of domestic violence and child abuse, building inspectors and others.

“You can’t separate child abuse, domestic violence and opiate abuse because in many situations, it all resides in the same house,” Chief Baker said.

"Chief Baker said. 'Now we’ll set up an intervention, not just wait for something to happen.'

"They began mapping service calls to detect patterns. This led to the identification of a 10-block target zone in the city’s Northwest sector as its most critical 'hot spot.' It receives 73 percent of all police calls, Ms. Rodrigue said, and 80 percent of burglaries.

"Many believe that part of the drug problem lies in the high conversion rate of single-family homes into multiunit rentals. The police say such units can be breeding grounds for drugs because of a well-established network, mostly of young women, who live in them and play host to out-of-town dealers. The dealers can make quick money by buying heroin in New York or Springfield, Mass., for as little as $6 a bag and selling it here for $30. About $2 million in heroin is trafficked every week in Vermont.

“'If you’re a guy from New York, you can come here with 500 bags of heroin, sell it and sleep with three different women before you go home the next day,' said Chief Baker. Many of the women, he said, receive rent subsidies and food stamps and use heroin themselves. 'The entire infrastructure is here for these guys to function, make quick money and leave,' he said.

"To help focus more attention on the drug problem, Rutland applied a year ago for a $1 million federal grant from the Department of Justice, which it did not get. But it used the application as a blueprint to organize a communitywide coalition of concerned citizens and government agencies. It calls itself Project Vision and it complements the work of the police and social services.

"The project’s overarching goals are to revitalize the 10-block target area, strengthen neighborhoods and reduce substance abuse.

“The point was to say, ‘This is our community and we’re taking it back,’ ” said Joseph Kraus, a former utility executive who is chairman of Project Vision.

"Last week, after months of preliminary work, its members laid out specific goals. The police want to cut residential burglaries in half by the end of the year. Project Vision intends to reduce the number of blighted homes in the target zone to 15 from 21 by rehabilitating or razing six of them.

"Two-thirds of the homes in the target area are multiunit apartments; Project Vision hopes to reduce that number to 50 percent within three years by buying back properties, perhaps having nonprofit groups restore them and resell them to owners who would live in them.

"The frenzy of activity has inspired people like Linda Justin to do outreach on their own. Moved by what she said were 'deteriorating' conditions, Ms. Justin, 65, has wound down her real estate business, cashed in her 401(k) and 'adopted' a square city block, where she has been meeting residents every Sunday and 'building relationships.' She offers to help clean up houses and was preparing recently to connect a young heroin addict she had met with the proper agencies for treatment.

"Mayor Christopher Louras has been going door to door with work crews as they install brighter streetlights.

“'A byproduct of that outreach is to talk to neighbors and let them know that we’re interested in their quality of life and giving them a greater sense of security,' said the mayor, whose own nephew was arrested in 2012 on drug-related charges.

"These efforts are in their earliest stages, but burglaries and thefts in Rutland were already down slightly in 2013 from 2012, according to police figures, although drug offenses — and overdoses — were up.

"Anecdotally, some business owners said they had seen little change, so far.

"Paul Ross, for one, who owns Ramunto’s Pizza Shop, said he still sees drug deals 'right in my parking lot.' And some residents of the target area resent that so many people from outside the zone are making decisions for their neighborhood.

Mr. Kraus, the Project Vision chairman, said the project was 'a work in progress,' but he was positive about Rutland’s future.

“'Nobody’s proud that we find ourselves in this circumstance,' he said. 'But we confront our problems and deal with them.' He vowed improvements."

(Katharine Q. Seelye. "A Call to Arms on a Vermont Heroin Epidemic." 
The New York Times. February 27, 2014)
 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Drug Abuse Research and Studying Proper Populations

Why, why, why do so many people ignore the obvious risks and experiment with deadly substances like heroin? To escape, to experience pleasure, to relieve physical and psychological pain and trauma, to satisfy peer pressures -- we all know of credible evidence that supports these reasons for taking drugs.

But, who do researchers study to delve deeper into the risky attraction of substance abuse? The answer may surprise you.

Ph. D. Adi Jaffe, executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health, instructs a class on the psychology of addition (Psych 477) at California State University in Long Beach. He states ...

"Nearly all addition research, especially studies utilizing "hard" drugs like cocaine, meth, opiates, etc., are required to make use of a very limited part of society -- drug using individuals with a history of use of the specific drug of interest who are specifically not interested in treatment.

"Individuals who have never tried the drug or who want to be treated for drug abuse or dependence (addiction) are excluded due to ethical concerns.

"In most studies, participants can not qualify if they are addicted to drugs other than those being studies (except smoking, for which exceptions are usually made since we'd be able left with no participants otherwise) or have any associated mental health disorders, which are very common among addicted individuals.

"I (Jaffe) would further assert that for at least a substantial portion of these research participants, the term "addicts" may not be appropriate since many addicts would not willingly give up using their favorite substance for a week or two to be replaces with a hospital bed and an experimenter controlled dose of drug or placebo.


"Taken together, our research subjects are pretty obviously not representative of all drug users, or all addicts, or all anything else.
They make up a very specific group -- less than perfect,
but what we have to work with."

(Adi Jaffe Ph.D. "Addiction Research — Who Are We Studying? Understanding research without its participants is pretty difficult. Psychology Today. March 12, 2012)

Why is the population of participants in these studies so important? Jaffe says, "There are probably still some serious differences between 'true' addicts, recreational users, and semi-chronic users that would be important to understand, but we can't so we don't."

Many studies assess the return of cognitive function after short or long term abstinence or test a new intervention on those who want treatment, but they still bring on limitations that need to be specifically considered.

Jaffe contends ...

"But when it comes to assessing mood effects, or indeed any of a number of subjective effects of drugs, drug cravings, and withdrawal, this limitation in the population to be studied is something that often needs to be made explicitly clear to most public consumers of research.

"Since we can't assess changes in mood, absorption rate, anxiety, or any other such measure (some exceptions for very low doses in very specific circumstances) among people who are new to the drug, we end up assessing them among people with a lot of experience, but not enough of a problem to want addiction treatment. Again, this should be considered a pretty specific type of drug user in my opinion."

Most addiction researchers recognize these issues and make them explicitly part of their research publications in a specific section called "Limitations" but what seems troubling is that the public doesn't have any awareness of these issues.

Rethinking and Looking For Answers

Dr. Adi Jaffe was once a drug dealer and meth addict. For over eight years Adi’s own out-of-control use and lifestyle that his drug-dealing brought on "made his life feel like something out of a beatnik novel directed by Tarantino." After being arrested for the 4th time, and going to rehab twice, Adi managed to steer his life back on course.

Now, Jaffe's goal is to bring the latest knowledge about addiction to the people who could benefit from it most -- those who are suffering because of it. His view is a holistic one, drawing from the best and most recent research to bring as complete a solution to addiction clients.

At Alternatives, Dr. Adi Jaffe serves as the Director of Research, education, and innovation and is in charge of client monitoring, technology solutions, and data collections and outcomes research.

In 2008, Jaffe started a student group called Psychology In Action and an informative website (click here --http://www.psychologyinaction.org/).


Trusted medical and psychological research are imperative to finding new methods for fighting substance addiction. Instead of limiting scholarly efforts to understand this disease, we must support efforts to open new avenues to success. Limitations based on "ethical concerns" that don't make sense inhibit understandings that could potentially save lives.

The Preamble of the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct states the following:

"Psychologists are committed to increasing scientific and professional knowledge of behavior and people's understanding of themselves and others and to the use of such knowledge to improve the condition of individuals, organizations and society. Psychologists respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication."



A responsible code of research for the APA is defined by federal agencies. Need I say more? The federal government often responds with turtle-like efficiency as red tape and politics clog important arteries of a desperate humankind. As the APA follows governmental restrictions to "respect and protect civil and human rights," a democracy should be aware a national epidemic supersedes antiquated policy in the field of research.

To say we are desperate for answers to curb drug abuse is the understatement of the new opiate age. I, for one, desperately want to know more about the attraction and the control associated with substances, and I want experts to study the right people and have opportunities to research for needed answers quickly. Judgments by unqualified statesmen and governmental officials can bring thorough, evidence-based research to a halt. Efforts to defeat the greed often associated with political corruption and power politics have to constantly contend with the stigma of a disease that threatens the future existence of a democratic American society.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Healing Deep Scars With International Overdose Awareness Day

Please read this post by a father who posted it as a remembrance on International Overdose Awareness's website.

"My son Michael died on August 19, 2014 of an overdose. As I write this I am still in tears about it. I keep going because (thank God) I still have another son to care for named Brian. And I work full time (as a teacher), and I have a supportive wife (Annette) and good extended family. There are days my system is still in shock. There are times I have been terrified that I might lose my other son because he has some serious health issues. So I often have to fight what some might call panic attacks. I never had these before in my life!

"I went into my son’s room on that fateful day to wake him for work. He was dead many hours by that time we found out. He had struggled with his demons for many years. It is more than sad for me as his father; he was my pride and joy as he was tall, handsome and smart. He was a scholar athlete and just a tremendous joy to be around. I miss the witty banter we had all the time around the house! Miss that so much! Miss it every damn day now!

"We almost lost him about 7 years ago. He nearly had an OD back then but my son Brian called 911 and he was saved. I told him after that crisis (almost every day) the following: 'Mike you can NEVER take anything else for the rest of your life. You might die.' The doctors had told us back when we first thought we nearly lost him that one big reason he survived was that he was strong and young! Oh God how many more of these young people have to die before the USA acknowledges the drug crisis in this country?

"I find solace in bereavement group talk (TC) and private therapy as well as the comfort of my family and friends. My son Brian is a huge reason I go on with my every day life now.

"What do people do who lose an only child?

"My cousin also lost his son to drugs and he was the same age – 28. I am convinced that people in their late twenties are in a danger zone now.
"My son was doing well in his job and was promoted quickly to the head of a group home! He had a B.S. degree in Psychology and had just completed his M.A. degree also!

"He was super smart. And so funny too! He was in a Ph.D. program for Psychology. He was set to move onto campus.

"But he overdosed one week before his move to campus. I need to stop now. Too hard still."

Mike



I cannot fathom the pain, the despair, and the permanent scars left in the wake of overdose deaths. I am at a loss for words to express my sorrow when I see family after family devastated by the premature overdose death of a loved one. Although we live in the greatest democracy in the world, we Americans are enduring drug-death tragedies that threaten our future and our freedoms.

I often wish I could reach out and offer condolences that might insure the end of a horrible national epidemic is near; however, all signs show the populace is slow to gain awareness of constructive methods to alleviate the enormous death toll.

International Overdose Awareness Day commemorates those who have passed away or suffered permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. The observance also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends while aiming to provide an opportunity for them to mourn without feeling guilt or shame.

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place each year on August 31st. This day is held on a global scale. The ultimate goal is to raise worldwide awareness about overdose, which causes 200,000 deaths and countless permanent injuries per year.


In Ohio, unintentional drug overdose continues to be the leading cause of injury-related death, ahead of motor vehicle traffic crashes, suicide and falls.

From 2000 to 2012, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased 366 percent. Each day, nearly five Ohioans die from drug-related overdose.

The Ohio Department of Health acknowledges and supports International Overdose Awareness Day

(Ohio Department of Health. "Drug Overdose in Ohio." February 10, 2014)

The silver badge is the universal symbol of awareness of overdose and its effects. Wearing silver on International Overdose Awareness Day can signify the loss of someone cherished or show support to those bearing a burden of grief. Wearing silver can signify the loss of someone close to you or demonstrate support to those who have lost someone.

Wearing silver is meant to send a message and that message is that the every human being is of infinite value. And this infinite value removes prejudice and stigma towards those who use drugs. Wearing silver symbolizes the celebration of life.


International Overdose Awareness Day History:


International Overdose Awareness Day had its origin in Australia, in 2001. Actually, it was started by Salvation Army. Thanks to its meaningful purpose and strong message, this day is now a global event with the annual participation of many countries across the globe. The whole world is now working together to acknowledge the pain felt by people who lost their loved ones to drug overdose and to make people aware that no one should suffer from this preventable tragedy.

International Overdose Awareness Day themes include prevention and remembrance. Here are some goals of activities planned that day:
  • To include the greatest number of people in Overdose Awareness Day events and encourage non-denominational involvement
  • To give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdoses
  • To send a strong message to current and former drug users that they are valued
  • To provide basic information about support services in local communities
  • To start a discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy
  • To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice
  • To remind us all the risks of overdose
This year August 31st falls on Monday. The registered observances onsite presently list only one commemoration in Ohio. Here it is:

International Overdose Awareness Day Memorial
Location: First Alliance Church
291 W Cook Rd
Mansfield Ohio 44907

 Type of Event: Candle Lighting
Time: 7 PM
Phone: 419-512-8158

For those interested in economic relief, it is a fact that drug overdoses are associated with high direct and indirect costs. Unintentional fatal drug overdoses cost Ohioans $2.0 billion in 2012 in medical and work loss costs; while non-fatal, hospital-admitted drug poisonings cost an additional $39.1 million. The total cost equaled an average of $5.4 million each day in medical and work loss costs in Ohio.

Reach Out Scioto

Let's encourage Scioto health officials, hospital administrations, and others from treatment centers, counseling facilities, schools, and churches to come together and organize a meaningful observance of International Overdose Awareness Day on Monday, August 31, 2015.

Let's invite everyone to a commemoration that would uplift the goals of awareness. I think healing and obtaining more good information about a devastating problem go hand-in-hand to stimulating an increase in much-needed, positive actions.

In the recent past, events to mark the day included a “die-in” in Los Angeles; a capitol march in Sacramento; a survivors’ photography show in Denver; educational sessions in Philadelphia, Hartford, and Durham, NC; a Bronx awards ceremony for policymakers who supported New York’s Good Samaritan 911 law; and dozens of  candlelight vigils across the nation commemorating the lives of people lost to the disease.

On August 31, local radio stations in many observance communities were asked to play music by the many artists who have died from overdoses.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tarnation and Frustration: I'm Voting "No" On City Tax Increase Ballot

Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen has stated that Portsmouth did not ask for enough money during the last tax increase request. Allen told those at the Scioto County Health Coalition meeting about the dire straits the city will be in if the proposed city income tax increase does not pass in November.

Manager Allen explained ...

"I can tell you today that, contractually, by law, through the (City) Charter, I cannot pay everybody after 2015. If this doesn’t pass there’s going to have to be service cuts and that will have a negative effect on the community. I tell people, you couldn’t imagine what I’m going to have to cut.

And people talk about, back in the eighties - and I wasn’t here - but there were days that the cemetery didn’t get mowed at all and the grass was three feet high. I don’t know if that’s true but I can tell you that’s where we’re headed.

We’re headed to basically abandoning the parks and not mowing them. Right now we don’t have any parks people. The Streets Department gets pulled off the streets and has to go mow.”

Then, Allen told those in attendance about these major concerns:

* Street department workers need to be fixing the streets instead of being pulled off that work to do things like mowing parks.
* The police department and fire department are a big chunk of the budget as a “necessary evil.” 60 percent of the General Fund budget is police and fire.
* At the present time, the police aren't even doing routine patrols, but instead only responding.
* There is even talk about Portsmouth converting to a volunteer fire department that would drive businesses out of town because of increased insurance costs related to a volunteer program.

(Frank Lewis. "Allen Discusses City's Financial Woes."
Portsmouth Daily Times. March 16, 2015)

I, for one, am disgusted with city finances and threats of poor services. Let me relate the latest in my dealings with the city.

I needed two runs of guttering done, complete with leaf guards. Without telling you details about my last experience on the roof and on ladders, which ended up with me falling and paying hospital bills, I hired a very respectable local gutter company to do the work. I am just too old and too unstable to chance the injury. The company's rates were reasonable, and they were assured contractors licensed in the City of Portsmouth. The repairmen were really nice people that I would highly recommend.

The day before the job, the owner called me to request I go to the Engineer's Office in Portsmouth to acquire a building permit for the small job. I questioned why we needed a permit for such a minor improvement, and he told me that the city was checking all home improvement for permits -- even for simple jobs like installing a storm door.

Of course, I told the owner it wasn't his fault that the city required the permit, so I told him I would comply. I jumped into my car and drove to the city building to purchase my building permit for hanging two gutters. I filled out the paper, complained a lot (of course), and paid $25.25 for my permit.

Now, I understand liability and regulations; however, the company has insurance. Yet, even though they were licensed, insured professionals, I had to pay the city for a building permit which they told me was basically for my own protection. I can imagine quite a bit of revenue must be coming into the Engineer's Office considering all the little projects I see people doing.

In my aggravation, I told the man at the Engineer's Office that he and I could get into my car and within 15 minutes, I could show him numerous dangerous properties in town that present a legitimate and present risk to innocent people. That would not include the old building on 2nd Street that recently fell down -- remember the one recently wherethe workers neither had a permit or an approved plan?

These dilapidated homes in town are owned by residents and local slum lords. Why weren't city officials policing these places and why weren't they making owners improve their real estate or be fined heavily for their neglect? After all, these repairs would increase property value and taxes because improvements to individual residences and crumbling businesses also contribute to raising the standard of neighborhood locations.

I also told him that if I had a major project at my home, I would certainly acquire a building permit without being advised to do so. But, this one hour project needed a permit? They said it did, so I donated the money to the city, and I expressed my disgust at caring enough to fix my home as a senior citizen on a fixed income, a person I believe definitely should get a break on licenses for home improvement.

And, I must say I felt as if I was preaching to the choir because the employee in the Engineer's office was very sympathetic and very interested in what I had to say. He was a nice man. We reached many general agreements in changes that needed to be made... after I paid my building permit money.

But, still ...

I made up my mind that day, considering the circumstances, I will vote "no" for the tax increase in November. The work permit regulation was the proverbial "straw that broke this camel's back."

Hell, I had just received my first speeding ticket in a speed trap on Coles Boulevard after living nearby for forty years. Why? The city had received a grant earmarked for catching speeders. Have you tried driving 25 MPH on Coles? Do it and find fingers, fists, and flowery profanity brushing up against your bumper. But now, I drive 25 and take the abuse.

And, let me give you other good reasons for voting "no."

The voters of the city of Portsmouth passed a 0.6 percent income tax increase in 2011, but the City Fathers drafted a resolution stating Allen's efforts have been insufficient to bring city finances in order, so the city is asking for this new income tax increase of 0.5 percent. No one seems to know exactly what "in order" entails. As a citizen, I feel cheated living in a town where bad comes to worse.

The Daily Times reported the resolution states the city’s general fund is expected to be in deficit for the foreseeable future without either significant cuts to services and numbers of employees or additional revenues.

Allen said. “We have done all we can, there is (are) no more areas to reduce except for laying people off or making employees pay more for their benefits.” Estimates say there are nearly 300 City employees and officials.

Do we need 300 employees?

The resolution states, “on average since 2009 yearly budget loses due to actions by the state legislature include $775,000 in Local Government  funds, $430,000 in Estate Taxes and $200,000 per year Personal Property Taxes for a total of $1,405,000 in total losses per year to the city budget.”

(Wayne Allen. "Resolution passes to ask for tax increase."
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 26, 2014)

What guarantees will the city make to us citizens that a new tax increase will generate enough money to prevent the need for increase after increase? I believe the answer is "none."

According to Census figures, the city has an estimated 2013 population of 20,430 a significant drop (9%) from the 23,532 residents here in 1990. Therefore, do cuts need to be made in "the necessary evils" of police and in fire protection to reflect the population loss?

According to data from city-data.com, Portsmouth has a rate of 1.74 full-time enforcement employees per 1,000 citizens as compared to a rate of 1.99 officers per 1,000 people as the average in the State of Ohio.

According to portsmouthoh.org, The Portsmouth Police Department consists of the Chief, two captains, four lieutenants, eight sergeants, 26 patrol officers, an administrative assistant, and three administrative clerks.The average full-time wage for police and protection officers here is $55,050.

Violent crime in Portsmouth is significantly higher than the national average (rating 338.1 in Portsmouth compared to a 223.2 U.S. figure). And, the property crime rate is astronomical in comparison with the U.S. average (1,072.6 in Portsmouth compared to a 276.4 U.S. figure). Are we getting our money's worth for the significant expense?

 Portsmouthoh.org states the fire Department currently includes 38 sworn officers and six emergency dispatchers. The average full-time wage there is $53,460 according to city-data.com. I have no idea if this is anywhere near an average ratio. 

Raising Taxes In a Poverty-Stricken Area

The Portsmouth, Ohio poverty rate of 29.4% is much higher than the Ohio 2013 rate of 16%. In Portsmouth, the median worker income is $16,667. This is incredibly lower than the national average of $29,701.

As of the last census, the Portsmouth, OH unemployment rate of 13.6% was much worse than the 7.3% Ohio average.

These are facts -- granted, regrettable as they may be but facts, none the less -- that show the big money for better services is simple not available. City government needs to serve, not choke the public that already suffers from poverty.
   

Guess what? Even with the poor economy and enormous poverty, in addition to the last tax increase in 2011, Portsmouth citizens have suffered many increases in their water and sewer bills during the last decade. According to the Times, here are recent Portsmouth water and sewer rate increases:
  • 2004 - Water 5.7% - Sewer 5.9%
  • 2005 - Water 5.6% - Sewer no increase
  • 2006 - Water 9.1% - Sewer no increase
  • 2007 - Water 3.4% - Sewer 3.5%
  • 2008 - Water 3.5% - Sewer 3.5%
  • 2009 - Water no increase - Sewer 3.0%
  • 2010 - Water 8.0% - Sewer 9.0%
  • 2012 - Water no increase - Sewer 9.0%
  • 2013 - Water 3.0% - Sewer 3.0%
 (Frank Lewis. "Portsmouth water and sewer rates increase."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. July 24, 2013)

I feel as if I should be drinking Perrier straight from the tap considering those water increases. And, I certainly hope my bathroom deposits are being handled with the utmost of care at those rates. Whether its coming into our homes -- like water -- or going out of our homes -- like waste, we are paying at both ends.

In order for me even to consider voting "for" another tax increase, I would have to see exactly where the money is going, how much of it is going where, how efficiently it is going to be spent, how the increase will improve conditions in which I live, and MOST OF ALL, how the increase will guarantee that I will not be asked for an additional monies for many, many years.

Satisfying my concerns would require a huge campaign by the City Fathers chocked with many specifics. I don't think the city is willing to comply as their recent records of snow removal, garbage removal, and park maintenance are lacking. Excuses and threats? "Cemetery grass three-feet tall?" Well, at least we could be proud of joining the environmental Green Movement.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Addiction Epidemic: Dr. Gabor Maté and "Hungry Ghosts"



Epidemic -- the word is frightening and entails such massive connotations of destruction that most people feel powerless to find any way to help stop the effects of its horrible impact. The United States of America is in the throes of a heroin epidemic. Denial of this fact is simply adding to the death toll that now has reached unbelievable proportions.

Perhaps it is time we rethink the source of addiction. Current prevention and recovery methods help so many, but the problem remains: we are failing our youth in the way we treat physical and emotional pain. Statistics will bear out these sad revelations. Today I hope we might find some new directions by reading about the work of a very special man.

Dr. Gabor Maté is a recovery expert and groundbreaking addiction specialist who works with addicts in Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside, which is the area with the most concentrated levels of drug use in North America.

To fully understand Dr. Maté, it is imperative to read about his past. He shares this ...

"I am both a survivor and a child of the Nazi genocide, having lived most of my first year in Budapest under Nazi occupation. My maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz when I was five months old; my aunt had also been deported and was unheard-from; and my father was in a forced labour battalion in the service of the German and Hungarian armies.

"My mother and I barely survived our months in the Budapest ghetto. For a few weeks she had to part from me as the only way of saving me from sure death by starvation or disease. No great powers of imagination are required to understand that in her state of mind, and under the inhuman stresses she was facing daily, my mother was rarely up to the tender smiles and undivided attention a developing infant requires to imprint a sense of security and unconditional love in his mind.

"My mother, in fact, told me that on many days her despair was such that only the need to care for me motivated her to get up from bed. I learned early that I had to work for attention, to burden my mother as little as possible and that my anxiety and pain were best suppressed."

(Margaret Gunning. "Gabor Maté Interview." January Magazine. April, 2003) 

Dr. Maté believes the heroin epidemic among young people in North America stems from the fact that heroin is, above all, a pain-killer. He states ...

"The real question is not why is there a heroin epidemic, but why is there so much pain amongst young people today? And that has to do with two factors: one is that a lot of young people are traumatized and abused in childhood, and another is that lot of other people that are indirectly abused are still not getting their emotional needs met.

"Their parents are too busy, too stressed, too distracted, too depressed, too overwhelmed themselves to give them what they need. So children grow up with a sense of emotional lack and emptiness, fear, and distress. Heroin partially soothes that pain and that distress."


(Alexis Neiers. "How Do We Solve North America’s Heroin Epidemic?"
VICE Media LLC. July 28, 2013 )      

Even though genetics plays a role in addiction, the presence of "addictive genes" does not mean that someone is going to have a certain behavior. It does mean that behavior is more likely, given certain circumstances. Maté says it is these circumstances that either "turn off the gene or activate them -- we know this from both animal studies and human studies."

So, we currently understand the importance of education in fighting addiction, and we educate people to deal rationally with the unpleasant circumstances they face. For example, we warn youth of the dangers of heroin and the necessity of making good choices when faced with drug use. Yet, millions of these same children ignore the warnings and develop substance dependencies.

The natural remedy to help those who are dependent is treatment. No doubt, we lack adequate facilities to treat all of those who need affordable care. And, unfortunately, we understand treatment often doesn't work. It seems as if we need to do much more than treat people to help them gain power over their substance abuse. Again, Maté explains ...

"It's (treatment) ineffective, because it sees the addiction as the problem. The problem is everything else I've been talking about. Addiction is not the problem. Addiction is the addict's attempt to solve a problem. What did your addictive behavior do for you? I don't mean what was negative about it -- that’s obvious to everybody --but what did you get from it? It gave you something. What did it give you?

"... In other words, the addiction wasn't the problem.  Your addiction was your attempt to solve a problem. If you don't understand that, you can't talk to anybody."

The relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health is often considered controversial within medical circles. Still, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors now seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.

Maté claims there is a "brain biology of addiction."

In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically,
in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiologically,
in relation to development and early adversity.

Brain biology? It is human nature to look constantly for things that release endorphins -- the brain’s feel good, reward, pleasure and pain relief chemicals. Stimulant drugs like heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, nicotine, and caffeine all elevate dopamine levels in the brain. We understand that most people who try drugs do not become addicted.

Yet, Maté believes the most susceptible people are the ones with impaired brain circuits, and the impairment is caused by early adversity, rather than by genetics. He claims the medical profession should consider environment more than genetics when evaluating reasons for addiction. He thinks the profession puts overemphasis on genetics because it "gets them off the hook." According to Maté ...

"If people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies, we don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women, we don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, so that, you know, most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age on because of economic considerations.

"And especially in the States, because of the welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day. Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to.

"And so, if it’s all caused by genetics, we don’t have to look at those social policies; we don’t have to look at our politics that disadvantage certain minority groups, so cause them more stress, cause them more pain, in other words, more predisposition for addictions; we don’t have to look at economic inequalities. If it’s all genes, it’s all -- we’re all innocent, and society doesn’t have to take a hard look at its own attitudes and policies."

(Amy Goodman. "Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood." Democracy Now! May 30, 2011)

In his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Maté describes its title as a Buddhist phrase. He explains how this relates to addiction ...

"In the Buddhists’ psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through, all of us. One is the human realm, which is our ordinary selves. The hell realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The animal realm is our instincts and our id and our passions.

"Now, the hungry ghost realm, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths and scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They can never fill their bellies. They’re always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside.

"That speaks to a part of us that I have and everybody in our society has, where we want satisfaction from the outside, where we’re empty, where we want to be soothed by something in the short term, but we can never feel that or fulfill that insatiety from the outside. The addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, is that there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s just a continuum in which we all may be found. They’re on it, because they’ve suffered a lot more than most of us."

(Amy Goodman. "Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood." Democracy Now! May 30, 2011)

Implications For Solving an Epidemic

Dr. Gabor Maté and his studies tell us that a baby faces the war on drugs as soon as he or she is born. He emphasizes that this war is being fought in a manner that entrenches addiction deeply. Here are some key points ...

* Severe addicts are, for most part, abused children. Maté says they are trapped "in a system that ostracizes, marginalizes, impoverishes and ensures their disease."

* Children are experiencing not "bad parenting" but rather "extremely stressed parenting. They pick up on the stresses of their parents, and without proper development of their brain circuits, the children deal with that much stress by tuning it out. To prove his point, Maté invites us to look at the preponderance of ADD and the three million kids in the States that are on stimulant medication plus the half-a-million who are on anti-psychotics.

* We punish people for having been abused by institutionalizing them in punitive "correctional" facilities with no care. There, people suffer more, and then they come out, they’re more entrenched in their addiction than they were when they went in.

* The sense "of never being soothed, of never having enough" is rampant. So instead of a punitive approach, we need to have a much more compassionate, caring approach that would allow these people to develop, because the development is stuck at a very early age.

* For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. They’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development. Read this and consider whether Maté's image of development is true ...


"The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day." 

* Kids are still learning from the people they’re attached to, but now it’s other kids. So we have whole generations of kids that are looking to other kids now to be their main cue-givers.

* Research clearly shows that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behavior is actually stress. Stress drives addiction.


“Nothing records the effects of a sad life so graphically
as the human body.”


--Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian writer   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

American Horror Story: Mother Trafficks 11-Year-Old Daughter for Heroin

We Americans must be engaged in a war to fight the undeniable horrors of heroin addiction. No longer can we just sit back, pose opinions, and pontificate without demanding the government's full attention to the health crisis that threatens to destroy our youth.

And we, the U.S. citizens dedicated to eliminating dangerous foreign threats, must push our sleeves up, help destroy stigmas that prevent gaining ground, and unite to fight a common enemy -- opiate drug addiction. Innocent people are being destroyed in the drug trade, and we are obliged to act to help stop the ongoing carnage.

Let me relate a recent news story. Please read it and react. It will most likely make you ill, but it will also give you a taste of reality too horrible to dismiss. After you read this shocking news, please vow to act against escalating heroin addiction.

This week April Corcoran, a 30-year-old woman from Pleasant Plain, in Warren County, Ohio, faces 27 counts, including human trafficking, endangering children, and complicity. She has been indicted on charges she trafficked her 11-year-old daughter for heroin.

Shandell Willingham, 41, the alleged drug dealer, is facing rape charges and other counts in the case.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said at a news conference Monday with state Attorney General Mike DeWine that Corcoran would take her daughter to Willingham in exchange for drugs, then leave her with him and come back later to retrieve her until the next fix.

While Corcoran's daughter stayed with him, Willingham routinely would sexually assault the young girl. On occasion, Corcoran and Willingham ingested the 11-year-old with heroin. Willingham is also accused of videotaping some of these sex acts.

Willingham has been indicted on 26 counts, including rape, gross sexual imposition and human trafficking. Prosecutors said Willingham videotaped some of his sex crimes against the girl.

"As a parent, it is hard to imagine how you could use your child to satisfy your drug addiction," Deters said in a statement. "What this little girl endured is unimaginable, and I can only hope that mom and drug dealer's prosecution, the love and support of her family, and intense counseling will help this child regain some trust in the world."

Authorities said both defendants could face the possibility of life in prison if convicted of all counts.

The indictment alleges that the sex crimes took place from Feb. 15 and June 6 of last year. In June, the girl went to live with her natural father and stepmother, whom she told what had happened, according to prosecutors. Authorities said she continues to live with them. Deters says she is doing "as well as can be expected."

("Ohio Woman Accused of Trafficking Daughter, 11, for Heroin." ABC News. March 23, 2015)

("Woman accused of trafficking 11-year-old daughter for heroin." WLWT-5. March 24, 2015)

We can blame the horrible people in the report. We can blame the demon-like substance that creates such monsters. We can say, "Oh how horrible, but this is an isolated incident." We can read the story and try to forget it while we return to the assumed safety of our life filled with family and friends who "would never commit such unspeakable crimes."

But, we cannot escape reality. That reality is that untreated addicts all over the country -- addicts in our own backyards -- are suffocating not only themselves but also the future of our nation: innocent children. Nothing I can fathom could be more despicable. If we do not improve how we deal with addiction, we will continue to read untold numbers of similar tales that seem too fantastic to believe.

Don't wait to respond with help. Every dawn finds new victims for which help is too late. I think I can hear some think: "I don't have to worry. I'm not a junkie." When you dismiss your actions, just remember a drug-crazed mother handing over her 11-year-old child to the clutches of a 41-year-old sexual predator in exchange for a heroin fix. Can you walk away?


Monday, March 23, 2015

Surveys Find Scioto Teen Heroin and Cigarette Use Astronomically Higher Than Average In U.S.

Past 30 days Substance Use by Teens in Scioto County vs. United States (2013)

Marijuana 17.3% of teens in Scioto Country compared to 14.76% in the United States
Alcohol 25.5% of teens in Scioto County compared to 23.3% in the United States
Cigarettes 19.2% of teens in Scioto County compared to 7% in the United States
Rx Non-medically 4.4% of teens in Scioto County compared to 7% in the United States
Heroin 2.4% of teens in Scioto County compared to 0.35% in the United States


In the Past 30 Days, Scioto County Teens ...

Used marijuana at a rate 15% higher than the national average
Used alcohol at a rate 9% higher than the national average
Smoked cigarettes at a rate 93% higher than the national average
Used heroin at a rate 149% higher than the national average
Used prescription drugs non-medically at a rate 45% lower than the national average

(Source: "Monitoring the Future" Pride Surveys)

The current information is part of Ohio's 2015 Conference on Opiates and Other Drugs. It is a part of statistics compiled by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities and Mission Possible 2015.

The Priorities of Scioto County Community Assessment

(1) Supply Reduction/Demand Reduction
(2) Keep People Alive
(3) Treat the Addicted and Prevent New

The wonderful news is that the percentage of teens who perceive prescription drugs as potentially harmful has risen dramatically from around 40% in 2010 to over 80% in 2014. Rx drug education is working. This is evidenced by the statistics of teen use of prescription drugs in non-medical manners. Scioto County is currently sporting a rate of prescription drug abuse at 45% lower than the national average.

The citizens of Scioto need to look very carefully at the other statistics as well.

Scioto County teens use heroin at a rate 149% higher than the average of the United States. New measures must be taken to lower that astronomical rate.

Some immediate actions that should help to fight this heroin epidemic are in the works. They are as follows:

(1) Need to Expand Naloxone Distribution
(2) Need to Get Non-Traditional First-Responders On Board
(3) Need to Develop Leadership and Consensus Among Decision Makers and Stakeholders

Scioto County teens smoke cigarettes at a rate 93% higher than the average of the United States. To me, this statistic is both surprising and revealing. Nicotine addiction is much too high here.

Smoking becomes an addiction that is very dangerous. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths. Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these combined:
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Illegal drug use
  • Alcohol use
  • Motor vehicle injuries
  • Firearm-related incidents
Smoking is estimated to increase the risk--
  • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • For stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times
Smoking also causes diminished overall heath, such as self-reported poor health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.

(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The Health Consequences of Smoking -- 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014)

(Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. "Actual Causes of Death in the United States." JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291:1238–45)

Tobacco -- What Parents Can Do

The first step toward avoiding or correcting a problem is knowledge.
  • Be aware of the statistics. Know the threats to your teen.
  • Know what the tobacco industry is doing to target your teen. Point it out to him.
  • Know what programs are available in your community to prevent or help stop teen smoking and know how you can participate.
  • Take an active roll in your teen's life.
  • Know where he is and what he is doing.
  • Get to know his friends and their parents. Invite the friends on family outings or to your home for activities.
  • Encourage your child to participate in school sports.
  • Talk to, and with your teen. Keep an honest and open dialogue. Look for opportunities to open the subject for discussion with questions such as:
    • "Why do you think I request a seat in the 'No Smoking' section?"
    • "Why do you think so many kids smoke knowing it is so dangerous?"
    • "What do you think when you see kids smoking?"
    • "What are some reasons you might give your own child for not smoking?"
Talking about smoking ahead of time will give your teen an opportunity to make the decisions ahead of time. Then when he is offered cigarettes he will already have the answer.

Thoughts

Scioto County sat at the epicenter of the initial Prescription Drug Epidemic. As pill mills closed and Rx opiates became less available, heroin, a cheaper illegal opiate has taken a horrible hold here. It represents the preferred fix for those once addicted to prescription opioids like OxyContin. Of course, teens are at high risk as they experiment with substances like heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.

In addition, the county is in the middle of Cancer Alley. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and heart disease. In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States.

Heroin and cigarettes kill our populace -- it is evident that dependency and addiction to these substances begins at a very young age in Scioto County.

Ranked now as the unhealthiest county in the state, Scioto faces the news that legalization of recreational marijuana is being proposed. Considering our statistics, this is not what I would call good news. I feel we are not equipped to combat another vice that entices young users. Even though the rate of marijuana use here is but 15% higher than the average in the United States, that is still a significant number to consider before voting to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that close to 6 percent of 12th graders in the United States reported daily use of marijuana in 2014 (similar to 2013), and 81 percent of them said the drug is easy to get. And, here is an interesting statistic from NIDA (2014) on the perception of youth concerning pot -- 56.7 percent of seniors say they disapprove of adults who smoke it occasionally, and 73.4 percent say they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly.

It is evident that we must do a much better job of fighting substance abuse, particularly in the areas of teen use of heroin and tobacco. History shows the strong proclivity of us Appalachians to be highly addictive; therefore, our youth is at great risk.

We could argue at great lengths why this part of the country is prone to abuse, but does it really matter which problem came first -- economic depression or substance abuse? Substance abuse continues to erode the economic and social fabric of our Appalachian villages and towns. We must deal with the problem now.

According to an ARC-commissioned study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center in 2008, Appalachia suffers from disproportionately high rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear stated that the study "clearly illuminates a major problem we are facing all across Appalachia, and particularly in our state's 51 ARC counties. This is why it is imperative that we do not lose productive members of our workforce, or particularly our kids, the future of our towns, to drug addiction."

The Coalition on Appalachian Substance Abuse Policy acknowledges that substance abuse is a drain on economic life in Appalachian communities: money spent on drugs leaves the region, the workforce is weakened by substance abuse, treatment is costly, community trust is eroded, and family stability is compromised.  (CASAP) supports the following beliefs:
  • Substance abuse in Central Appalachia has characteristics and commonalities that not only justify but also demand solutions that transcend state boundaries.
  • Only a concerted, focused, substantial effort will be sufficient to address the threat that substance abuse represents to the economic well-being and the physical, emotional, and social health of the region.

CASAP concluded that, with improved information, resources devoted to prevention and treatment could be used to design highly effective substance abuse programs specifically for Appalachia.

The proverbial writing is "on the wall." It is clear that we DO have some HUGE problems. No significant change in these dramatic, deadly statistics will occur without the cooperation of health facilities, educational facilities, counseling and treatment centers, and a concerned populace. 

We must do more than treat those with illness or addictions: we must help them cease being controlled by the substances that enslave their lives. And, most important, our citizens who do engage in consuming harmful substances must develop stronger wills to quit. No illegal opiate or cigarette will be purchased or consumed by those who adopt zero tolerance.

A good friend of mine often reminds me of persistence when working on a particularly hard project. He simply said: "Nobody said this was going to be easy." How right he was.