By Stephanie Thiede, RN BSN
Langlade County is suffering from a methamphetamine epidemic. Arrests related strictly to methamphetamine possession and/or distribution in Langlade County have been on the rise since 2013. According to data collected from the Langlade County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Antigo Police Department, arrests for possession of methamphetamine dramatically increased from zero arrests in 2013 to approximately 39 arrests so far in 2017. Arrests made for maintaining a drug trafficking place with ties to the use and distribution of methamphetamine roughly doubled between 2013 and 2017.
Methamphetamine use is destroying families and our community. Used syringes are being found in playgrounds and parks where families expect to have fun and play. Meth users are driving under the influence, and even manufacturing meth in their vehicles, putting themselves, passengers, other drivers and pedestrians in danger. For those addicted to meth, the drug becomes the center of their universe. Children, pets, work and the home are often neglected. A child may be in an environment with animal feces on the floor, rotting food in the kitchen, syringes in the bathroom, drugs on the living room coffee table, a gun laying on the couch, a “one-pot” lab in their bedroom, and dirty clothes on their body. In 2016, the Langlade County Department of Social Services reported 23 Child Protective Services cases were due to methamphetamine.
So what can we do about it? The mission of Action Alliance, Inc. of Langlade County is to heighten awareness of youth, families and groups in our communities by providing education on the destructive effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The coalition works to prevent the negative impact of drug abuse in our community. Studies have shown that, among youth, factors most associated with methamphetamine use are a history of alcohol use and smoking, a history of illicit drug use and a family history of drug use. In 2015, across the United States, approximately 13,000 youth ages 12 to 17 reported using methamphetamine in the last month.
How do we address youth drug abuse? Action Alliance, Inc. of Langlade County recently displayed the In Plain Sight mock bedroom and backpack at the Antigo Middle School’s spaghetti dinner event for parents, staff and students. The display was interactive and allowed for community members to learn where children are hiding their drugs and paraphernalia “in plain sight”. Items that look innocent are being sold with hidden compartments. So something that looks like a typical highlighter, hairbrush or energy drink could be a stash container for drugs. And unfortunately, all of the items can be easily purchased on Amazon or Etsy. If parents, teachers, peers, etc. know what to look for and where to look, prevention and early intervention can take place.
If your employer or club/organization is interested in hosting the In Plain Sight display, please contact Stephanie Thiede at the Langlade County Health Department, 715-627-6250.
If you find a used syringe, please DO NOT pick it up and call law enforcement immediately at 715-627-6411.