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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stigma of drug use changing

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rob Gambill
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in series of stories regarding the drug culture in Clay County.

Is the war on drugs a fight against stereotypes?

According to many officials, the stigma of being associated with drugs, for whatever reason, has slowly changed through the years.

"Not only has the stigma changed, so has the mentality of those involved in the drug culture. There used to be shame attached to being arrested for drug use," Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill said. "But today, so many of the people arrested think it's nothing to worry about, almost like it's s right of passage. They think it gives them street credibility and lifts them above their peers."

Gambill and Sheriff Mike Heaton, along with various other law enforcement agents -- who will remain unidentified because they are actively involved in drug investigations -- recently agreed to speak with The Brazil Times about residents' concerns that drugs have invaded their community.

One potential contributing factor for this new attitude is highly controversial: The pervasive way the entertainment industry depicts criminals and drug use as a "cool escape" to the problems of life and as socially-normal behavior in adult-oriented movies, television programs, music and video games.

"To some extent, although no one really knows how much, these things are a definite influence on young people," Heaton said. "Whatever the reasons, attitudes have definitely changed. Suspects are not embarrassed by their drug activity. Many are proud of it."

However, law enforcement officers experience the reality of the situation.

When arrested, most suspects involved in drug activity tell officers they want out of the drug culture.

"They often cry and admit that they want to stop using and participating in criminal activities connected with drugs, but they just don't know how," an undercover officer said. "The drugs have taken hold of their lives and they can't get out. You can tell that they are being honest. They're lost. They really don't know how to get out."

On the flip side, the "dramatic license" of the entertainment industry regarding fictional crime dramas and forensic-based television programs has changed the real-world expectations of the public.

"Justice takes longer than 30 minutes," an undercover officer said. "There's a lot of manpower necessary to make a strong case for the prosecution and conviction of a suspect in any criminal investigation. The real world isn't like an episode of 'CSI.'"

Another factor law enforcement officers believe is creating problems is a "generational theory" that rationalizes drug use, which goes something like "what one generation despises, the second will learn to tolerate and the third generation, and so on, will ultimately accept."

Another potential trend is how easily accessible prescription drugs are in society.

"We live in a society where if something is wrong, just take a pill for it," an undercover officer said. "The medication is all over the media and inside easily accessible medicine cabinets that are literally everywhere."

Since the war on drugs began to focus on the devastation of street drugs, officials and parents have made it a point to make children understand the consequences of using these substances.

A recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed a 23.2 percent decline in teen use of illicit drugs like marijuana, crack and cocaine over the past five years. However, the recreational use of prescription medications such as the painkiller Vicodin is steadily increasing.

According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), each day, approximately 2,500 teens in the United States try a prescription painkiller to get high for the first time.

The knowledge that prescription drugs are dangerous is often overshadowed by the perception that something obtained so easily is relatively harmless.

Even many adults tend to perceive prescription drugs are safer to abuse than street drugs, with only about 30 percent of parents making it an effort to talk to their children about the risks of these drugs.

Statistics regarding drug abuse are difficult to track outside of law enforcement sources, which only track arrest information. There are individuals struggling with addiction, who have yet to be caught up in some form of criminal activity but might seek drug-related medical attention, which is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

However, there are public health surveillance systems.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) collects and monitors data on patients of all ages who visit emergency room for drug-related visits across the nation.

The information collected ranges from infant to senior citizen patients, who have mistakenly been given or taken too much medication to those seeking treatment related to negative side effects from the medication, or those seeking treatment for drug abuse or "reconsidered" suicide attempts involving drugs.

Drugs included in the data collected, range from illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, to prescription drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin and over the counter (OTC) medications such as cough and cold remedies, inhalants and alcohol.

According to a DAWN study in 2005, an estimated 1,449,154 emergency room visits in the United States involved drug misuse or abuse, with 598,542 of the visits made because of non-medical use of prescription, OTC medications or dietary supplements.

A third of these drug misuse/abuse visits were related to drugs used in combination with alcohol.

"People really don't know what they're dealing with when they mess with prescription drugs. Thinking it can't be bad if a family member takes it, is an incorrect assumption," Heaton said. "There's a reason these types of drugs are prescribed by a doctor. If not taken correctly, the end result can be lethal. Someone, somewhere is combining alcohol, illegal and or prescription drugs to create a new high. It's happening right here in our community, right now."

Energy drink crisis

The Journal of American College Health recently published a report about the link between health problems for teenagers who consume large amounts of energy drinks and the potential for risky and aggressive behavior, including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.

Classified as "dietary supplements," a review or approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not required before these products hit store shelves. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University researchers have determined many of the most popular energy drinks contain more than five times the caffeine than is found in an average soda. A newer energy drink on the market, Wired X505, contains 505 milligrams of caffeine per 24-ounce serving, compared to 12-ounce servings of Coke Classic, at 34.0 milligrams, and Pepsi, at 37.5 milligrams.

While research data doesn't mean the drinks cause bad behavior, it does suggest regular consumption of "high-caffeine" energy drinks may be a potential red flag for parents concerned their children are taking risks with their health and safety.

Many caffeine researchers find nothing wrong with ingesting a single serving of an energy drink, but others are concerned with the side affects connected with people becoming dependent on the hundreds of various beverage brands on the market.

Depending upon an individual's body weight and tolerance, ingesting 300 milligrams or more of caffeine can lead to symptoms that are similar to overdoses of other stimulants.

Signs of caffeine intoxication can include restlessness, insomnia, excitement, irritability, and increased urination.

Significantly larger overdoses can cause mania, depression, delusions and disorientation.

In severe cases, medical officials report caffeine overdose can be deadly.

Local law enforcement officials confirm they are finding more and more suspects in possession of empty energy drink cans.

"It's happening here, to what extreme we're not sure," Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy and former drug enforcement officer Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times. "After a teen party or while cleaning their child's room, parents might not think anything about finding numerous cans lying about. But, if mixed with alcohol or drugs, it can be a bad combination."

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Prohibitionists dance hand in hand with every possible type of criminal one can imagine.

An unholy alliance of ignorance, greed and hate which works to destroy all our hard fought freedoms, wealth and security.

We will always have adults who are too immature to responsibly deal with tobacco alcohol, heroin amphetamines, cocaine, various prescription drugs and even food. Our answer to them should always be: "Get a Nanny, and stop turning the government into one for the rest of us!"

Nobody wants to see an end to prohibition because they want to use drugs. They wish to see proper legalized regulation because they are witnessing, on a daily basis, the dangers and futility of prohibition. 'Legalized Regulation' won't be the complete answer to all our drug problems, but it'll greatly ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets, and only then can we provide effective education and treatment.

The whole nonsense of 'a disaster will happen if we end prohibition' sentiment sums up the delusional 'chicken little' stance of those who foolishly insist on continuing down this blind alley. As if a disaster isn't already happening. As if prohibition has ever worked.

To support prohibition is such a strange mind-set. In fact, It's outrageous insanity! --Literally not one prohibitionist argument survives scrutiny. Not one!

The only people that believe prohibition is working are the ones making a living by enforcing laws in it's name, and those amassing huge fortunes on the black market profits. This situation is wholly unsustainable, and as history has shown us, conditions will continue to deteriorate until we finally, just like our forefathers, see sense and revert back to tried and tested methods of regulation. None of these substances, legal or illegal, are ever going to go away, but we CAN decide to implement policies that do far more good than harm.

During alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

In an underground drug market, criminals and terrorists, needing an incentive to risk their own lives and liberty, grossly inflate prices which are further driven higher to pay those who 'take a cut' like corrupt law enforcement officials who are paid many times their wages to look the other way. This forces many users to become dealers themselves in order to afford their own consumption. This whole vicious circle turns ad infinitum. You literally couldn't dream up a worse scenario even if your life depended on it. For the second time within a century, we've carelessly lost "love's labour," and, "with the hue of dungeons and the scowl of night," have wantonly created our own worst nightmare.

So should the safety and freedom of the rest of us be compromised because of the few who cannot control themselves?

Many of us no longer think it should!

-- Posted by malcolmkyle on Sat, Jun 19, 2010, at 4:20 AM

Are you trying out your dissertation? I am sure that there are some law officials in places that take a bribe but, I am offended that you seem to recklessly accuse all law enforcement of taking bribes. Most likely the families of these officers who struggle to get by take offense at your assurtion.

-- Posted by i'm justified on Sat, Jun 19, 2010, at 9:20 AM

Did you even read what malcolmkyle said? Or are you just trying to take attention from the real issue? He said "those who take a cut", in no way did he suggest a number, but you can be assured that it is quite pervasive. The point he made was that prohibition is not, and has never, worked in this country. It's a viewpoint currently shared by many, and gaining ground every day because it is rooted in logic and reason. Rather than fear-mongering tactics such as this incessant need to blow the cover off of a new high, as was demonstrated by the concern over (gasp) energy drinks! Better start hiding the books too, it'd be a damn shame if anyone could think for themselves you know...

-- Posted by SilentRat on Sat, Jun 19, 2010, at 12:30 PM

Don't think this is a black and white issue but a combination of religious and social issues as well. While I do agree that in the past prohibition created new ways to skirt the law [AND tax revenues], social intolerance has in the past partially controlled intake of drugs [including the legal ones], whether it went so far as making certain ones illegal or not.

On the flip side however, if more drugs besides the alcohol/tobacco ones become legal there will likely be more collateral damage than ever before.

Relatives, especially children, become handicapped in society when abuse of any drug occurs. Whether simple neglect, or outright abuse at the hands of the user, these relatives become desensitized to abusive behavior, thinking it is the norm and society looses the work ethic and education that enables it to function. Already we complain about taxes it takes to run prisons and the justice system but we don't address the root of the problem which is generations of those in society who grow up in a household where drug use is the norm and work ethic and the push for the best education possible is not paramount in order to grow up to be a productive member of society. It is fine for society to punish and care for those caught up in abusive situation but to legalize the substances takes away the leverage to limit the collateral damage. Without this legal leverage, the damage to society would likely worsen.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Sun, Jun 20, 2010, at 6:17 AM

malcolmkyle- I see you like William Shakespeare. Which college paper is this, your argumentative?

You are passionate about this topic as you have posted this word for word on various other articles concerning law enforcement agencies war on drugs. I believe this is a battle worthy of fighting and it has nothing to do with taking away rights. Do you also protest the stores that post the sign on the door "no shirt no shoes no service"?

In the same way that the owner of the store is exercising their rights to not sell to persons who do not wear a shirt or shoes, the officers of law are exercising their right to punish persons who choose to take a drug that has been deemed illegal, and one that causes problems in society. Jenny Moore has it right in her last paragraph.

-- Posted by righton on Sun, Jun 20, 2010, at 2:14 PM

ONLY citizens have rights. Police officers' powers are PRIVILEGES that are granted by the citizenry and can be stripped at any time through the proper bureaucratic channels. Much as the business owner's property rights allow him to refuse service, the rights and sovereignty of the individual should allow him/her to ingest whatever it is that they desire so long as they do not obstruct the rights of others.

That leads some, such as Ms. Moore above me to say that the detriments to others are too great to allow this freedom. The problem with that line of thought is that widespread problems with neglect and violence began only after drugs had been illegal for decades. The truth is that no one can be sure what the implications of allowing the behavior are because it has not been tried. All that is clear is that the current attempts to skirt drug use are not working, will not work, and must be discontinued before progress can occur.

-- Posted by SilentRat on Mon, Jun 21, 2010, at 7:42 PM


Sorry that theory doesn't hack it. Both tobacco and alcohol are legal drugs and abuse of either causes neglect and sometimes abuse issues on part of the addict. While laws don't eliminate the addiction, it minimizes it among those who out of personal ethics feel that they must obey the laws of society in order for society to function. Not ever law benefits each person but as a whole benefits the society of which individuals are a part.

Right now there is a letter to editor complaining about a "silly law" that prohibits dogs from barking in city limits. While this person is complaining that at 2 in afternoon no one should be bothered by a barking dog, but I'll bet a person who works nights or has a small fussy baby napping in neighborhood thinks it's a good law.

Now IMHO raise the tax on those legal drugs to help cover costs of those abusers using them...but not make more legal. Too much damage already occurring. The illegality of the other drugs are the leverage the society needs to keep them at bay. Go sit in on family court or ask Child and family services about their case load. Almost all of them revolve around some sort of substance abuse;legal or not.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Jun 23, 2010, at 2:01 PM

.. is thinking we should have had Jenny Moore with us on the initial posting of the "war on drugs". ; )

Well put, Jenny. I'm not feeling the "how do we know it won't work, we haven't tried it" theory because it HAS been tried and it HAS failed.

-- Posted by Emmes on Fri, Jun 25, 2010, at 10:37 AM

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