Our community is anything but untouched by the epidemic of opioid and prescription drug abuse that seems to be sweeping the nation, according to presentations made during Tuesday evening’s Town Hall Meeting presented by the Lincoln County HELP Anti-Drug Coalition.

The meeting saw the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department as well as panelists from across the community share stories that together painted a picture of a problem far greater than most of us here would ever imagine.

From children knowing how to make meth after watching their parents make it so many times to court cases directly and indirectly related to drug abuse, the tales were almost endless as authorities in the field shared their experiences.

“It’s right here in Lincoln County,” said Judge Andy Myrick, noting that 26 children involved in 14 cases would be heard in his juvenile court the following day. “Seven of those are directly drug related ... It’s right here in Lincoln County, and people don’t realize it,” he said.

And in his most recent general sessions court, which included 129 criminal court cases, 55 were directly related to drug charges. Most of the others, indirectly related.

Answers – solutions – to the problems are hard to come by, but Myrick said he’s learned a few things from his time on the bench. One, putting people in jail is not effective. Two, when it comes to choosing drugs or your children, drugs almost always win out. Third, he said, it’s a disease of the mind, one in which people do not heed the little voice that most of us hear telling us not to do this or that.

The greatest success he’s seen has come with Recovery Court, a program started in Miami in 1989 and initiated here some years ago. Generally, Myrick said, the results are good, with 70 percent non-recidivism rate —- in other words, 70 percent of those convicted who participate in the program don’t reoffend.

Overall, though, Myrick’s advice was simple – “Just help ... If you see someone who needs help, just help,” he said.

Responding to 6,814 calls last year, Lincoln County Health System’s Emergency Medical Services – the ambulance service – finds itself responding these days to an increasing number of calls related to drug abuse, sometimes prescription pills and sometimes other drugs like heroine. Last year, the service answered 90 overdose calls, three times the amount of the previous year.

“We are seeing more and more young people, 20- to 28-year-olds who are complaining their back hurts or their legs hurt,” he said. “They think we carry something in the ambulance that they want or they’re trying to get to the ER faster ... These are people who shouldn’t be experiencing those kinds of problems.”

There are early intervention, moral recognition therapy, and pre-release and re-entry programs available to those willing to accept help, said Kaye Cowley, who chairs the Anti-Drug Coalition here, going on to commend Carter’s Drug Store for not permitting the purchase of psuedoephedrine-based products without a prescription.

One woman present also encouraged cancer patients to be careful, saying her treatment resulted in her being targeted for the medications she was taking.

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