2017 – the new year has just begun and a continual flood of bad news washes over the area. It seems that every day we awaken to news of a deadly assault, a missing person, an overdose, a drug bust, or a shooting. Headlines tell us about drug busts, robberies, abuses against children, sexual crimes, and abductions. These crimes threaten all who live in our small, rural communities. Lately, the dangers make us question the quality of life we all share.
I remember when our county was simply better. Of course, Scioto has always suffered from its share of criminal activity. We have continually dealt with a segment of lawless individuals who have posed serious threats to our well-being. However, crooks now regularly forage and pillage without any restraint or concern for public safety. They are the horrible products of an addictive sickness that has infected the area, a sickness that puts all of us in present danger.
These days a mere handful of change can elicit a break-in, a physical attack, or a shooting. The need for a fix transforms residents of all ages into thugs – monstrous creatures who destroy their families, their friends, their neighbors, and eventually themselves. They are out of control because they ingest and inject poisons that eradicate their judgment and their sense of moral responsibility. They spend their time chasing a dragon that in its lascivious intoxication ravishes their brains.
Drug abuse inevitably invites involvement with the criminal element. Drugs offer escape and pleasure at a cost. The use of drugs leads many abusers to carry out use-related crimes – offenses they commit because of the effects drugs have on their thought processes and behavior.
Although no one intends to become hooked on powerful drugs, even experimentation and occasional use of some substances can lead to dependency and addiction. Life for an addict becomes a nightmare of seeking immediate gratification. Their brain chemistry becomes altered to perpetuate additional use. As addicts find themselves needing higher and higher doses to achieve a high, they require more money for their fix.
Most addicts soon find that they are unable to hold regular jobs, so they seek money from other means to fund their increasing dependency. Many begin to commit economic-related crimes to fund their habits. These addicts routinely turn to robbery and prostitution for income.
And, of course, other addicts commit system-related crimes: Crimes that result from the structure of the drug system. They include production, manufacture, transportation, and sale of drugs, as well as violence related to the production or sale of drugs, such as turf wars.
Who is at most risk for becoming a drug criminal? Lifestyle choices, environmental factors, as well as genetic determinants factor into who will abuse drugs as well as who will commit crime. Drug abusers typically experience various cognitive variables such as poor decision making, high risk taking, and lack of self control. Some of these drug users experience feelings of invincibility, which can become particularly pronounced with abuse. As drugs take over their lives, these addicts eventually become oblivious to the consequences of committing crimes, even serious offenses.
No one can argue that the depressed environment greatly contributed to Scioto County becoming the epicenter of the prescription drug abuse epidemic. Yet, in a “chicken-or-the-egg” debate, it is unclear just how much the criminal element contributed to substance abuse and how much substance abuse contributed to the criminal element. With greedy doctors in ten pill mills writing prescription after prescription for addictive opioids and dealers from all over the country using this supply, it is no wonder we are still in a cycle of drug activity and related crime.
I, like most area residents, hate the seemingly never-ending situation. I abhor drug dealers and drug-influenced crime. Whether use-related, economic-related, or system-related, this illegal activity negatively affects the quality of life for all of us here. It damages our loved ones and leaves scores of innocent victims in its wake. I realize there is a complex interaction of negative elements at play.
Perhaps my view is too pessimistic. But … I'm sick of the crime. I'm tired of the addiction. I'm upset that despite the best efforts of so many our area is suffering so much. We live in a beautiful physical environment with a relatively low cost of living populated by so many wonderful residents. Why must health concerns and drug crimes plague us?
Sociologists and criminologists have a field day explaining all the negative influences that contribute to drug abuse and addiction. God knows we have them here in spades. But, it's time to stop giving excuses for consuming drugs and understand that substances weaken character which, in turn, weakens will power and judgment, which in turn, leads to criminal behavior. Until the need for instant gratification and the widespread acceptance of using drugs like meth, prescription opioids, and heroin are negated, we will see our county riddled by criminals.