Substance Abuse Trends in Kansas: Drug and Alcohol Facts

Across the United States, millions of people struggle with substance abuse. Some will succumb to its grip, ending up sick or dead. At least 23 million Americans currently deal with alcohol and drug addictions, but few addicts ever get treatment, for a number of reasons. Often, the lack of access to quality treatment is a factor, but so is the stigma or the fear that seeking treatment will result in legal consequences.

According to the National Substance Abuse Index, Kansas fights against substance abuse every day but has more problems with some substances than others. A 2015 study of Kansas youth reveals drug overdose and death rates have quadrupled in the state over the past 12 years. Overdoses and death are especially common in males ages 12 to 25. The most recent data indicate Kansans experiences 5.9 overdose deaths for every 100,000 youths. Although this is below the national average, there are many reasons to believe substance abuse will only increase in Kansas as the next decade approaches.

Addiction Treatment - KansasMethamphetamine is currently Kansas’ most significant drug threat, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Locally produced methamphetamines are readily available, but Kansas receives much of its meth supply from Mexican criminal groups based in California and throughout the Southwestern U.S. Both Mexican drug trafficking organizations and local dealers supply methamphetamines, and the drug is sold almost anywhere in many Kansas communities. Street and outlaw motorcycle gangs often distribute meth, but it’s also available through retail sellers.

Cocaine, especially crack¬†cocaine, is Kansas’ second-biggest drug threat. Cocaine is available in the state, although crack cocaine is more often found in urban areas. Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs available, and it is highly sought after in Kansas and across the U.S. As with meth, Mexican criminal groups and local gangs often dominate cocaine production and distribution. Independent cocaine dealers are also common, often selling retail quantities on Kansas streets. Both methamphetamine and cocaine are generally associated with violent crimes, including murder and assault. In particular, the product of meth and meth lab seizures lead to a great number of Kansas’ violent crimes.

Marijuana is the state’s most widely available and frequently abused drug. More Kansas residents are admitted to treatment facilities for marijuana abuse than for abuse of alcohol or any other drug. Since marijuana’s legalization in Colorado and Washington, D.C., the quality of Kansas marijuana has improved, making it more sought after than ever.

Substance Abuse Care in Kansas

Kansas, like every other state, endeavors to control and eradicate substance abuse, especially among its young people. Yet evidence suggests the state is not doing enough to combat the problems, and what resources that are available could be working better. For instance, Kansas does not currently have a Good Samaritan law. These laws protect addicts seeking medical attention from legal consequences, such as arrest or jail time. Good Samaritan laws also protect friends and loved ones who fear they might be judged guilty by association when seeking help for an addict. Without legislation like the Good Samaritan law, addicts in Kansas are less likely to seek help when necessary and far more likely to die from substance-related causes.

Kansas is dedicated to educating its youth about the dangers of substance abuse. Much of the substance abuse in the U.S. begins in schools, so educational programs are a must. We need to move beyond “just say no,” says Jeffrey Levi of Trust for America’s Health. Levi says substance abuse is not a matter of willpower and indicates both Kansas and the U.S. at large must work on more effective policies regarding substance abuse.

Disturbingly, Kansas’ substance abuse treatment demographics are steadily shifting toward younger patients. Kansans ages 18 to 25 currently make up 30 percent of substance abuse treatment seekers, according to Stacy Chamberlain, an addiction services director for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. That’s a significant change from 15 years ago when most addicts in Kansas were older than 18. Despite this change, there is not enough substance abuse research, policies, or programs aimed at Kansas’ young adults.

Kansas also currently suffers from a lack of information about the effects of certain drugs. For instance, Kansas attorney general, Derek Schmidt, has attempted to institute a statewide program to track how high-quality marijuana acquired in Colorado affected Kansas. Existing criminal justice systems do not have the capabilities to track marijuana from Colorado into Kansas. Much of the information Schmidt has acquired is anecdotal, leaving Kansas law enforcement officials without specific plans aimed at dealing with substance abuse.

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