Meth Use on the Rise in Region
According to Carrie Bence, Deputy Director of the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission, methamphetamine is the number one illegal drug of choice in Clarion County.
“People who seek services through our agency, that’s the most common drug they’re reporting (the) use of,” explained Bence.
The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was designed to lower domestic production of methamphetamine by restricting access to the basic ingredients for cooking it – which were available at local pharmacies.
Still, methamphetamine has grown in some parts of Pennsylvania, including Clarion County.
Bence said that alcohol is still the most commonly abused substance overall; however, as far as illicit drugs, meth is the most commonly used drug followed by prescription drugs.
“We’re not seeing as much heroin as in the past, though we are seeing more prescription drug use in Clarion County. We’re also not seeing the rise in cocaine use in Clarion County that we’re seeing right now in our other counties, but we’re keeping an eye out for that.”
Clarion County DUI Coordinator Jill Neiswonger said that while most DUI offenders are being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, as they move through the court system, particularly the drug and alcohol evaluation that most DUI offenders are required to complete, many are discovered to be using illicit drugs, as well.
“We have seen a rise in prescription drug abuse and marijuana use, but when you talk to the drug and alcohol treatment programs, they’re seeing more meth and opiate use,” Neiswonger noted.
Sentiments are similar in the surrounding areas.
Robert Daugherty, Director of Adult and Juvenile Supervision Venango County said they are seeing a similar trend in Venango County.
“Meth is really front and center right now. Opiates are still getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but meth is a serious concern,” said Daugherty.
Rick Orlowski, Drug and Alcohol Program Director for the Family Service and Children’s Aid Society of Venango County, noted that while alcohol abuse remains an ongoing problem, they’re also beginning to see more use of methamphetamine in the area.
“For the last several years, the opiates were one of the main increases we’d seen with clients, but in the most recent six months or so, we’ve seen a real increase in meth use,” Orlowski said.
The same trend extends to Jefferson County, as well.
According to Susan Ford, Executive Director of the Clearfield Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Program, while alcohol abuse continued to be a top issue, they’ve started to see a distinct increase in methamphetamine use in Jefferson County.
“The top three abused substances in Jefferson County are alcohol, narcotic drugs, and then meth,” Ford said.
“It’s really a regional thing. I was just at a meeting with some counterparts from across the state, and everyone is beginning to notice an uptick in meth use right now.”
According to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, police made the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the history of Western Pennsylvania just last month after finding 55.5 kilograms of meth in the trunk of a vehicle in Butler County.
Methamphetamine is considered highly addictive and harmful to those who use it. Signs of methamphetamine use include paranoia, tooth decay, facial scratches and lesions, weight loss and frailty, and convulsions. Additionally, meth use can lead to heart damage, brain damage, violent outbursts, and even increased risk of strokes.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are behavioral therapies such as family education, individual counseling, and 12-Step support, as well as continued drug testing and encouragement for non-drug-related activities.
This is where programs like the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission step in.
“Our office contracts with treatment providers. We have case managers and recovery specialists for support, and we work with individuals to get them into treatment,” said Deputy Director Bence.
“We work with the drug treatment court, as well as with probation, and we have a warm hand-off program at Clarion Hospital with an Addiction Recovery Mobile Outreach Team (ARMOT). Anyone who comes through the hospital, on any unit, with a substance use disorder can meet with a case manager or recovery specialist and we will work with them to get them into treatment.”
The Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission also provides many prevention programs in local schools and works to gather information to help combat substance abuse in the community.
“We are constantly gathering data on the issue and working the Pitt’s School of Pharmacy as well as Clarion University to try to see where the needs are and tackle these issues.”
As drug addiction is a societal problem, not just an individual problem, treatment and counseling programs are available across the region.
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