Switzerland County took a big step towards dealing with a growing problem last week when a community meeting was held to begin discussions about the rising drug abuse problem here and in surrounding counties.
As you may know, the first step in healing a problem is admitting that you have one.
Unfortunately, for many communities, it’s easier to promote that there is no drug issue rather than begin to publicly take steps to deal with it.
Last Tuesday was a great step, but make no mistake – it was only the first one of many.
Another meeting has been set for July 18th; and those in attendance at last week’s meeting were asked to volunteer to serve on one of four sub committees: Prevention; Treatment; Support; and Enforcement. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, and you want to volunteer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As this journey begins, everyone needs to understand a few very important points:
(1) As was said at the meeting, no one is going to agree with everything; but that doesn’t mean things can’t move forward. People can disagree without being disagreeable; and at this point in the process, all opinions and points of view will be heard and considered. Individuals might feel that one avenue is less important than another; but we can’t let that stop us from moving down one of those avenues, because to stand still is not only counter productive – it can be deadly.
No one will hear your voice if you don’t come to a meeting and share it; so don’t sit back in your living room and decry how people “don’t get it”, if you’re not willing to help educate others.
(2) Addiction is a disease. Yes, at some point a person made a decision to ingest some chemical; but from that point on, brain waves and physical issues prodded that person to continue; until they were so far into addiction, that they couldn’t make reasonable choices; so they made bad ones.
At Tuesday’s meeting, it was noted that a person addicted to methamphetamine will need as long as 10-12 years to begin to see what we would consider significant recovery from the damage that the drugs have done. What is beginning is a process, and those impacted by addiction need to know that they have a community that is in it to stand by them for the long haul.
Unfortunately, “Just Say No” is not a workable solution to drug addiction.
(3) I believe that everyone needs to acknowledge, or at least consider, that alcohol and marijuana are ‘gateways’ for people to get to more addictive drugs. It was hard to believe Dad or Mom when they told you not to smoke cigarettes while they were puffing on a Marlboro; so if parents are truly motivated to keep their children out of these types of circumstances; then they need to see that they must lead with their actions, not just their words.
As strange as it may sound, there are adults who believe that a way to keep their children off of things like heroin and methamphetamine is to allow them to drink alcohol at a younger age. That’s like saying, “I don’t want you to drive at 100 miles an hour down a county road; but you’re allowed to go 80.”
(4) Finally, we all need to know that this isn’t going to be fixed soon. It may not be fixed at all, but rather it may simply be slowed down. I believe that curbing this crisis begins with our children. When I was little, people routinely threw garbage and trash out of the car window. When our nation began to talk about pollution and controlling it, that message was shared in elementary schools and junior high schools, allowing a generation to grow up knowing that you didn’t pollute.
As harsh as this may sound, for many of those already addicted to opiates or other drugs; it may already be too late. What’s not too late is to stand in front of seven and eight and nine year old kids and begin to shape their opinions that what they may see in their homes and around them isn’t okay; and that they can have better lives.
The July meeting is the second one, but we cannot fool ourselves into thinking its the last one.
We not only owe this effort to ourselves, we also owe it to our children.