COLUMBIA — Methamphetamine and heroin abuse increased significantly in Boone County from 2011 to 2012, according to state data.
In Boone County, methamphetamine abuse increased more than 30 percent and heroin nearly 45 percent from 2011 to 2012. Abuse of other substances, such as alcohol and cocaine, decreased, according to a report by the Division of Behavioral Health.
In Columbia, rising heroin use is symptomatic of a problem that has ravaged a number of Missouri communities. In May 2012, Jeff Rukstad, a vice detective with the Columbia Police Department who specializes in narcotics, recalled more heroin overdoses in the past year than in any other in recent memory. (This story is available to Missourian digital members.)
Drug treatment programs in Columbia
Phone: 573-442-2591 or 573-442-2204
Address: 117 N. Garth Ave.
Address: 90 E. Leslie Lane
Address: 3605 S. Providence Road, Suite 6
1900 Prathersville Road;
1200 Range Line St.;
1201 Pannell St.;
1301 Vandiver Drive
Address: 104 Bicknell St.
The report also revealed a nearly 50 percent increase in overall stimulant abuse in Boone County during the period. Stimulants include methamphetamine and other amphetamines.
The number of meth labs detected in Boone County also increased — from seven in 2011 to 20 in 2012, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol website.
Prescription drugs might be contributing to the increase in drug abuse. Once people become addicted to one substance and can't obtain it, they're more likely to become addicted to other substances, said Linda Frost, prevention director of the Family Counseling Center of Missouri.
More young people addicted
According to the report, people ages 18 to 24 made up the greatest number of substance abusers in Boone County in 2012, and the number of addicts younger than 18 increased by more than 20 percent from 2011 to 2012.
This also holds true nationally, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Young people can be more easily addicted to drugs if they come from a family with a history of drug abuse or if they suffer from mental illness; they are also more likely to become addicted if they don't go to school often or don't have strong connections with other people in the community, said Ryan Worley, coordinator of the Youth Community Coalition.
Prescription drugs may also be a factor for drug abuse among young people.
"We've seen that particularly through the relationship between painkillers and heroin," Frost said.
According to the latest national research findings, abuse of prescription painkillers has replaced heroin abuse as the most common cause of opiate overdoses. Many of those who die from drug overdoses are of lower socioeconomic status, said Eddie Adelstein, medical examiner for Boone, Callaway and Greene counties.
According to Trust for America's Health, Missouri is now the only state that doesn't have a monitoring system for prescription drugs. Missouri's first bill on establishment of the prescription drug monitoring program was introduced in its House in 2007, and there have been eight House bills and three Senate bills calling for a monitoring program. None of them was passed.
The Missouri Prescription Drug Monitoring Program NOW Coalition — consisting of individuals and 36 groups and agencies — is now pushing for the passage of the legislation.
Realization and recovery
Estimates of the total costs of illicit drug abuse amount to $193 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's website. At the individual level, the costs are devastating.
"When people get pretty involved in their addiction, it ultimately is not fun anymore," said Tanya Weigand, addiction recovery director of Family Counseling Center for the central Missouri region.
Addicts struggle with medical and relationship problems, which can lead some people to try to end their addictions, Weigand said.
"But the problem is every time people try to stop using (drugs), the withdrawal symptoms are so significant that they can be painful, and they are really sick," Weigand said.
Longtime methamphetamine abusers may find it difficult to replace the pleasure offered by the drug, which leads to further abuse, according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"So it is a vicious cycle," Weigand said.
People who attend the treatment programs at the Family Counseling Center usually spend about one month in inpatient clinics and continue their recovery through outpatient services, and relapses are common among patients, Weigand said.
"They get triggered by things, or they fall into old patterns, or temptation," Weigand said. "And sometimes (they) take a couple steps back, and then we help them get back onto their goals.
"It really is a lifelong process," she said.