Kleinhelter: Substance abuse must be faced head-on

Dubois County Sheriff

There likely isn’t a family anywhere that hasn’t been impacted by substance abuse.

Substance abuse is defined as the use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are intended, or in excessive amounts. Substance abuse impacts every area of an individual’s life, leading to social, physical, emotional and job-related problems in many cases.

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and Oct. 23-31 is Red Ribbon Week. The Red Ribbon Campaign reaches millions of young people every year. This year’s theme is “Drug Free Looks Like Me.”

This is a month during which we are all asked to acknowledge the problems illegal drug use causes and how important prevention is. It’s a time to encourage those engaging in this behavior to stop, and to seek help before it is too late.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 841,000 people have died from a drug overdose since 1999. In 2019, 70,630 Americans died from drug overdose. Over 70% of those deaths involved an opioid. Statistics indicate that 2020 will be even worse, with an estimated 93,000 drug overdose deaths.

Studies have found that the earlier a person starts smoking, drinking or using other drugs, the greater the chance that they will become addicted. Nine out of 10 people who abuse drugs or alcohol first used those substances before they were 18.

Substance abuse has a lasting negative impact on communities. It’s up to each of us to face this problem head-on. It won’t get better without action.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, here are five ways to prevent substance abuse:

• Understand how substance abuse develops.

• Avoid temptation and peer pressure. Parents need to have ongoing age-appropriate conversations with their children about drug use and peer pressure.

• Seek help for mental illness. Substance abuse and mental illness sometimes go hand in hand. Those dealing with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder benefit from professional help to learn healthy coping skills.

• Know the risk factors. Examine your family history of mental illness and addiction. The more aware you are of your risk factors, the more likely you will be able to overcome them.

• Maintain a well-balanced life. Substance abuse often develops when something is missing in a person’s life. Practice stress management, find a hobby, develop goals and dreams for your future and make sure your relationships are healthy ones.

Law enforcement plays a key role in reducing substance abuse. Officers are on the front lines, working to remove illegal drugs from our communities.

If you suspect someone you know is selling drugs, never attempt to confront them. It’s much safer to report your concerns to law enforcement who have the training to investigate the situation.

Substance abuse devastates families, often for generations, and impacts every aspect of a community. My officers and I will continue to do everything we can to keep our county healthy and safe.

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