Community Substance Abuse Issues, A Time for Action

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Pictured from  Left to Right – Theresa Ann Trimble, Linn County Circle of Care; Wanda Mokry Sellers, Heart of Iowa; Kelly Reitzler, ASAC’s Adult Halfway House; Don Tyne, Sleep Out Committee; and Ann Hearn, Linn County Community Services

By: Lindsey Elam, Certified Prevention Specialist

It is common to hear from the general public that they know someone who may be suffering from a substance use disorder, but if you are one of the lucky few who do not know someone personally or see or hear anything about these issues, is it not a problem in your community?  According to the Linn County Coalition for Safe and Healthy Communities survey conducted over the past few months, this seems to be the case. For those who stated that they did not believe alcohol or marijuana were problems in their communities, not being able to physically see it was their main reason for feeling that way.

While you might not have to directly deal with someone that is struggling with a substance use disorder, you are paying a price in your community and these prices you pay are big problems. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2014, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit drugs added up to over 700 billion dollars in costs to society. These costs ranged from healthcare, loss of work productivity and violence.  Although taxes are collected on legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco, the taxes collected do not come close to covering the costs that we have to pay for the negative impacts they have in our community.

The Behavioral Risk Surveillance Systems 10 year summary on adult binge drinking has shown that Iowa had a binge drinking rate well above the U.S., and local data states Linn County has an even higher rate than that of Iowa. Locally, the Iowa Department of Public Health shows alcohol as the primary substance for treatment admissions in Linn County with Marijuana treatment admissions climbing at a concerning rate.

Adults in Linn County may not view substance use as main concerns, but youth who took the Linn County survey are singing a different tune. Youth in Linn County seem to have a better grasp on the problem and have reported several issues they are seeing from students using it at school and getting in trouble, smelling marijuana as they walk through the halls, kids using in the bathrooms, or in some cases, using in class.  All ages stated that alcohol and marijuana are easy to get from anyone including a friend, neighborhood dealer, dealer at school, friends of friends, or college campuses.  Lastly, youth surveyed realize that substance abuse doesn’t just affect the individual or close friends and family. Many youth has stated that substance abuse issues in our community have led to violence, gang issues, vandalism, among many other issues.

It is time to take action because the issues surrounding substance use disorders are occurring in our communities. The good news is that in Linn County we have a support system in our community that is ready to hit the ground running and take that action.  For more information or to get involved with the Linn County Coalition for Safe and Healthy Communities, contact Lindsey Elam at lelam@asac.us

Sources: Center for Disease Control, Iowa Department of Public Health