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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.


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.
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