Around 400 people turned out for the Know the Truth forum on substance abuse and addiction at Buffalo High School on Thursday. Numbers regarding substance abuse in Wright County were shared, along with tips to recognize the signs of abuse and addiction, and methods to intervene. The forum was a countywide effort, involving the sheriff and county attorney’s office and all city police departments in Wright County. Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge was also represented along with a number of individuals who testified to the impact of drugs and alcohol in their lives.
Police Chief Jeff Herr said he was pleased with the information shared. “Everyone did a great job,” he said. ”I heard several comments from residents (about) how informative the presentation was.” Herr said such events were more common a few years ago, but persistent efforts by law enforcement and groups focusing on education and treatment in the early 2000s eventually led to “saturation,” meaning the public education goal had largely been met and attendance at the events began to wane.
The most recent Know the Truth effort highlighted a number of changes on the substance abuse landscape since about 2009, however, and Herr said knowledge of what is happening at the local level is important to share with the public. “Our community needs to be proactive since these same issues which are happening around the country are also happening here in the state of Minnesota,” he said.
As for how things have changed, Herr said he doesn’t believe the volume of substance abuse has increased, but the type of substances being used have evolved. “Synthetic drugs and prescription drugs have created new challenges for law enforcement,” he said. “With prescription drugs being considered the most widely abused substance, I would remind the public that it is illegal to provide, barter or sell prescription drugs to anyone. Your actions of providing prescription drugs to other persons could lead to serious legal consequences.”
Herr also said the general public has a role to play in containing the spread of prescription drug abuse. “They can help fight the prescription drug abuse problem in our community by disposing of any unused, expired prescriptions,” he said. “Our agency is a designated ‘drug drop off’ site; we encourage you to take advantage of the free resource. By removing it from your house, it limits access to those looking to abuse it.”
Prior to the presentation Know the Truth conducted a study of Wright County schools and determined that 21 percent of high school students surveyed reported using illegal drugs at some point. Of those who had used drugs, marijuana was the most commonly-used drug at 96 percent of users, while 28 percent reported using prescription pills, 22 percent used ecstasy or other hallucinogens, 15 percent used synthetic drus and 2 percent used meth.
As for alcohol, 47 percent of high school students reported that they have consumed alcohol, and 12 percent said they drink three or more times each month. About 27 percent of males said they had participated in binge drinking, as did 37 percent of females.
Younger students were not entirely immune from substance abuse either. Five percent of Wright County middle schoolers reported using illegal drugs, and 10 percent of males and 20 percent of females reported binge drinking. Know the Truth’s Adam Pederson said that while those numbers may seem high, they also prove that a majority of students do not abuse substances, and students ought to know that they are not alone in refusing to participate in such activities.