Comments Off on BUFFINGTON: Drug abuse [Methamphetamine] in rural America a growing problem

Forget Islamic terrorists.
The likelihood of a foreign terrorist killing you is almost nil.
You’re far more likely to be killed by lightning, a heart attack, cancer, the flu, Alzheimer’s, an infection, Parkinson’s, or a car crash than by terrorism.
Or maybe you’ll die from a self-induced drug overdose, or at the hands of an angry lover, or mad neighbor.
America is gripped in a frenzy of fear right now with a fear of terrorism far out of proportion to reality.
But if you want to see what you should really be afraid of, look in the crime and court pages of this newspaper. A rising tide of drug abuse — much of it prescription drugs and meth — is swamping local law enforcement and court officials.

Once thought of as the bane of urban cities, serious drug abuse has been sweeping suburban and rural communities over the last decade. Meth has been a major part of that, but so has the abuse of opium drugs.
On an individual basis, that abuse is bad enough. But it’s larger than the individual.
Many of those hooked on drugs can’t get jobs because they can’t pass a drug test. Their lack of resources affects their children, too, who often struggle in school and who are in danger of continuing the cycle of drug abuse as they become adults.
And drug abuse is all too often part and parcel to physical abuse within homes and families. Often, those involved in domestic fights have been drinking too much or abusing drugs.
In the larger picture, this abuse is also destroying some rural communities across the nation.
Rural areas have been struggling for years as its younger generations move to jobs in cities. That leaves behind empty school buildings and decaying downtowns as the population drops.
In addition, many areas have seen a decline in manufacturing jobs as our economic system moves away from industrial manufacturing toward an information and technology based economy.
That has left many rural areas with shuttered factories and a population that lacks the resources to transition into that new economy.
Some cite that economic change and the stress it brings as the underpinning of the drug abuse epidemic in rural areas. Maybe, but there’s more going on than just economic dislocation.
The basic idea of “community” that has been so much a part of rural America is itself fraying. That’s apparent in the overall vulgarity of our culture and how that is expressed in everything from music to politics.
For too many people, the concept of “community” has gone from one of geography to that of the dark isolationism found in social media. It’s easier to have online “friends” than the real thing.
Perhaps all of those things have unmoored rural America from its traditional roots. Personal aimlessness seems to be part and parcel to the drug abuse epidemic. Work is replaced with welfare, accountability replaced with neglect.
Back when much of America looked at drug abuse as mostly an inner city problem in the black community, the cry was “law and order.” Many Americans, especially white citizens, just wanted to lock up the city crackheads, most of whom were black.
But now that the meth and opium epidemic has spread to rural white America, the focus has changed. The call to “lock them up” has faded as white Americans see drug abuse in their own neighborhoods and families.
The result is that many rural communities have created local drug courts that seek counseling rather than prison for drug abusers. It’s easy to call for prison when the problem is somewhere else, but more difficult when it’s in your own backyard.
Still, many rural communities don’t have the resources to deal with the onslaught of drug addiction, family violence, the neglect of children and accidental drug overdoses. In many cases, rural law enforcement, DFACS, schools and courts just can’t keep up.
This is a national problem, but the answers won’t come from Washington. At its core, this is a local problem and demands local solutions.
We can’t lock up everyone who is addicted to meth or prescription pills — the direct cost is far more than any community could afford.
But the indirect cost of doing nothing is even worse.
There is a crisis in rural and suburban America today and it has nothing to do with terrorism or politics. A new drug culture has emerged and it is tearing both families and communities apart all across rural and exurban America.
We ignore it at our own peril.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at

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