Illegal drugs: an increasing problem
Several weeks ago, my wife and stepdaughter were driving down Route 1 and saw several police cruisers outside an alleged drug house where a body was being removed. Later they found out that the deceased was an addict who had died from an overdose.
This scene happens all too often and makes me wonder how many other poor souls are doomed to suffer the same fate; illegal drug use is all around us. The opportunity to make big money is there and the predators have moved in. Our society has become very permissive about drug use as evidenced by new marijuana laws, and our children are seduced by a seemingly glamorous drug culture.
To understand the magnitude of this problem I interviewed John A., a DEA agent of 32 years; Dan Davey, Knox County Sheriff from 1985 to 2006; and Mike Philips, former drug law enforcement officer.
During John’s career, he was instrumental in the arrest and conviction of drug addicts and drug dealers throughout the U.S. In the early part of his career, he worked undercover and in the later part of his career, he was a supervisor. He has a tremendous amount of experience fighting illegal drugs. One of the most memorable arrests he made was of an 18-year old boy in a meth lab. The boy had no knowledge of chemistry, just simple instructions “to mix a red substance with a blue substance and heat until it turned orange.” What the boy did not realize was that if he had messed up the formula, he would have taken out his house and several houses on either side of him. One common thread John realized during his whole career was that marijuana was the introductory drug into this world where addicts and dealers were cultivated. Regularly, he meets people who do not think that jails should be full of marijuana users. John has to point out that most were convicted of marijuana possession after pleading down from far more serious offenses such as dealing and distributing large quantities of drugs.
During Dan Davey’s tenure in office, problems with drugs increased steadily in Knox County. The type of illegal drug varied from time to time, and constantly new drugs were invented or introduced to the community. “There was always a demand for drugs.” In 2006, the drugs of choice included cocaine, oxycodone, methadone and marijuana. Heroin was not common during his tenure. Methamphetamine -- crystal meth -- was on the rise, which ushered in the meth labs that we encounter today.
Mike Philips fought drugs as an MP in the canine unit and as a canine law enforcement officer in Missouri. In addition, he has made it a point to monitor the drug culture in Knox County. He reports that heroin (also known as smack) is now one of the most popular drugs followed by crystal meth, oxycodone and bath salts.
Maine Substance Abuse Mental Health Services reports that in Maine there were 165 drug affected babies reported in 2005. In 2011, the number of drug affected babies rose by more than 300 percent to 667 babies. The statistics from Maine Substance Abuse Mental Health Services supports the claim made by the three drug enforcement officers about the rising problem. The sad fact about this statistic is that drug abuse affects all of us, even our infants. God help us!
The war against illegal drugs rages on. Even though law enforcement, health services, and schools have had some successes fighting this war, both Dan and Mike stress that supply follows demand and illegal drug use continues to plague our communities. We have to do more! To be more successful, our community must be better informed and must participate in the solution. We need to make sure that law enforcement has the laws and tools to do their job. We need to make sure that health services get our respect and support for what they do. We need to keep the drug predators away from our children. As neighbors, we need to be vigilant and report suspicious activities. And most especially, we need to work together; this is not a political battle, this is a battle for the health of the people in our communities.
My research into this problem is far from over and already it is scary to me. Good peoples' lives are being destroyed. I am going to continue to learn more about this problem and we all need to pull together on this one!