In 2016, Castlight Health did a nationwide study and probed the rates of opioid painkiller abuse in the U.S. cities. What it found might surprise you.
Our neighbor to the west, Pensacola, is listed as the 16th most drug addicted city in the country and our neighbor to the east, Panama City is listed as the 13th most drug addicted city. That puts us right square in the middle.
What we have noticed over the past year or so is that when it came to drugs, arrest report charges were predominantly “possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.” Which meant they were carrying prescription pills and couldn’t prove it belonged to them. And rarely were the pills in a pill bottle. They were in cling wrap, baggies or some other container.
We still see some of that, but more and more we are seeing arrests for heroin, meth and cocaine with paraphernalia like spoons, syringes, needles and scales. Drug use is accelerating and the more dangerous the drug the more drug users want it.
Where does it start? Drugabuse.gov says it can begin early in childhood development and usually centers around a transitional period in a child’s life, like leaving elementary school to go to middle school or middle school to go to high school. It’s at this time that they are experiencing additional social stress. They may be exposed to drugs for the first time. Early abuse could include tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana and pills. And then it keeps progressing.
When speaking about the drinking or drug issue in Navarre, we hear the parents say, “There is nothing for our children to do in Navarre.” That is true, however, it is not a reason to look the other way when we know our children are drinking underage or experimenting with drugs or are addicted to drugs. Should we all just shake our heads and say, “Oh, well. They have nothing else to do.” Are we a society that has to be entertained 24/7? Technology makes sure we are, until we need to get up and move around. Then we don’t know what to do or how to do it.
Drug addiction can tear a community to shreds. Take for instance the couple from Navarre arrested in Gadsden as they were passed out in the car with used syringes and drugs…and a baby. They both have been in and out of jail, costing tax payers as they move through the system. Now they are in the Alabama system. And what will happen to that little baby? Children in this type of environment are more likely to be taken from the home and placed into state custody. Walk down the future road of that child and let us know how it turns out.
In addition, drug users overcrowd the jails, drug overdoses overload hospitals and drug abusers overwhelm society. The one addicted has a ruined life, unable to break free from the drug without professional help. Mothers, fathers, wives and husbands beg them to get help. Meanwhile, their physical and mental well-being begins to deteriorate. They lose their job and isolate themselves from family. They begin to steal to get money for drugs. And often times it starts small with stealing out of a family member’s wallet or purse. Or a jewelry box. And then when they can no longer get away with it, they go outside to steal, from an unlocked car, or shoplifting or worse.
How can a community solve a problem like this? We have to keep talking to each other, to our children and to our leaders. We have to tighten down on our children and teach them to do what is right. A clear message comes from a parent, not from a parent trying to be your best friend. Those messages fall on deaf ears. We respect our parents’ authority – not our friend’s authority.
As a community, we must know where are children are going and what they are doing. We must educate, educate and then educate them some more. Drugs ruin lives. As a parent you have spent your life as a mom or dad protecting your child(ren) at all costs, so why are you going to stand by and watch them fall into a lifetime of pain? Get them the help they need. Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy.
We will keep educating you about the latest drug trends in our area, what to look for and how to recognize drug use. We will do our part – please do yours.