Quiet Change of a Community

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Many tend to dismiss substance use as something that is only done by “a certain type of person,” but the reality is any of us could use and even become dependent on a substance.  This use and dependence can lead to a variety of concerns that may impact the community.  For instance, as substance use increases in an area, it is common to see an increase in school problems, workplace issues, crime, violence, emergency room visits, mental health issues and suicides.  In reality, we all may be impacted by the consequences of others’ substance use.

The damage of substance use can become even more serious when youth begin to use, as the consequences may have a lifelong impact. Given the development of the youth brain, youth are at greater risk for developing dependence and use may negatively impact their emotional development. Youth use of substances may also have a serious impact on their education and goals.

Ten years ago, very few stores openly sold drug related products. Today there are at least seventeen stores in the Cedar Rapids metro area that sell glass pipes, bongs, scales, grinders and potentially dangerous substances.  It is known that these items are used to consume or prepare drugs, but these stores will sell these items as “art” or “tobacco paraphernalia.”  A few of these retailers may choose to operate more responsibly by not selling to youth, but this is not the standard for all.  We know that the open sale of substances and paraphernalia increases the likelihood that youth will use through increased availability of drug related items while decreasing the perception of harm.

As we consider the changes we have seen in our community and schools, we must ask ourselves if a change is needed to ensure a safe community and a better future for our youth.  By encouraging responsible retailing we can decrease youth substance use, support effective parenting and create a safer community. For this reason, setting a minimum age to purchase or possess these products makes sense.

The Area Substance Abuse Council is partnering with a number of other organizations and individuals to establish a minimum standard that requires customers to be at least 18 years old to purchase or possess these drug-related products. If you believe this change is needed and want to offer a little bit of help, contact Curt Wheeler at cwheeler@asac.us or call 390-1884.