Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Jacob W. Brower

If I were an advisor to the Governor of Missouri, the issue I would encourage him to address is the manufacture of drugs and the use of drugs and alcohol throughout our state. The advice I would give him is to impose stiffer penalties for those who manufacture drugs and focus on prevention, and, most importantly, rehabilitation, of those who abuse alcohol or drugs.

According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, alcohol and drug abuse affects more than 259,000 Missourians and another 800,000 who are family members of substance abusers. That is roughly 20% of Missourians who are affected. Intoxication by the means of drugs and alcohol contribute to a great percentage of deaths statewide from burns, fires, homicides, assaults, drowning, suicides and traffic crashes.

I believe that very stiff penalties must go towards those who manufacture illegal drugs. These people have no regard for human life. These manufacturers sell the drugs that pollute and corrupt our society without shame or remorse and should be severely punished.

I believe another way to limit the manufacture of drugs is to make a college education easier to achieve, therefore making honest, lucrative careers more obtainable. The state of Missouri should lower the cost of tuition in its colleges and universities and raise the amount of state money in the areas of financial aid, grants and scholarships. While this measure will contribute to a loss of state money, I believe that it will also save money by keeping potential drug manufacturers out of the jail cells and in the classrooms.

I believe that it is also important to prevent people, especially children and teenagers, from using drugs and alcohol. Many children and teenagers throughout Missouri experiment with drugs every day. Programs that are already in place for children, such as the "Mo Says No" and "Take Hugs, Not Drugs" campaigns are great, but I believe that these programs should continue to the junior high and high school levels because most drug use begins here, not in elementary.

For junior high students, schools should hold voluntary drug testing (with the parents' consent) every month and those who test negative could receive a pizza party, a dance or something of that nature. This will reward drug-free junior high students and will encourage other students, who might have tried drugs, to do likewise.

For high school students, we should provide more scholarships like the Bar S scholarship. This scholarship is for students from all levels of school up until the senior year in high school who pledge to be drug free. Once in college, these students get drug-tested every semester and the scholarship is renewed every semester they are drug-free.

This is by far the best solution I have seen to keep our youth off of drugs and there should be more scholarships like it.

For those who are arrested for abusing drugs and/ or alcohol, there should be mandatory rehabilitation if the party involved is convicted. A jail term, fine and/ or community service should be mandated as well, but without rehabilitation, the person convicted will be more likely to continue abusing drugs and/ or alcohol.

Drug and/ or alcohol addicts need to feel love and peer support despite their faults in order to make any progress on the road to rehabilitation. Often times, a jail sentence, fine and/ or community service alone causes only resentment and defiance among addicts. These individuals need to be around people who care for them and Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous provides these individuals with the support that they need.

In order to fully understand drug and alcohol addiction, we must first comprehend the phases of addiction itself. According to a handout given to addicts at the Lester E. Cox Medical Center the first stage of addiction is called the pleasure stage. This stage includes peer pressure, curiosity, attraction, release of inhibitions and relaxation. This is the stage in which usage is relatively harmless. It is in this stage that, ideally, addiction can be stopped in the easiest way possible; before it begins.

The second stage of addiction is what is called the problem stage. This is the stage in which defiance, unplanned use, preoccupation, and rapid intake takes place. When a person sees this occurring in their lives or in the lives of someone around them, concern should set in. At this point, individuals are ashamed of what they are doing,