It is probably not breaking news to anyone that Missouri residents partake in the use of drugs, but not many people know how bad the drug problem actually is locally.
According to a recent study by WalletHub, Missouri ranks second in the country for its drug usage rate. The list included all 50 states and the District of Columbia, which tops the list.
But those numbers change drastically just with a quick trip across the Missouri River to Kansas. According to that same study, Kansas is on the opposite end of the drug spectrum, ranking 48 out of 51 for having the lowest rates of drug usage in the nation.
So, why is there such a stark contrast in drug usage numbers between the bordering states? Kristina Hannon, vice president of behavioral science for the social service organization Family Guidance, said she doesn’t believe there is much of a difference between the states in reality.
“When you look at actual substance use and drug addiction, we actually rank 16th of 50 states,” Hannon said, who got that rating from a National Substance Use Disorder survey.
Capt. Shawn Collie, Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, said the study holds true with his experiences.
“We’ve always maintained and had that belief that yes, we have a problem here with drugs,” Collie said.
Hannon works with patients struggling with addiction every day and she said she can attest to the rising drug issues around the area.
“We have seen an increase in substance use in the last five years in Northwest Missouri,” Hannon said. “Last year we treated over 2,000 individuals who have a substance abuse disorder in nine counties, so we see that it’s increasing pretty significantly.”
The Drug Strike Force has been diminishing in numbers. They’re now down to six members on the team. Collie said they do the best they can to keep up with all of the drugs on the street.
“We get so many calls a day about drug houses or drug issues. We start looking about the type of person, what’s their criminal history, are there kids involved, is this going on in the area of a school?” Collie said.
Both Hannon and Collie agree, there is one drug in particular that continues to plague Northwest Missouri.
“At this clinic, we treat four times more meth use than we do opioid abuse,” Hannon said. “There have actually been quarters where we treat more meth abuse than alcohol abuse.”
Collie said the number of meth labs has greatly diminished around Buchanan County in recent years thanks to concentrated efforts by area law enforcement. He said the main goal of the force is to keep the community safe at any cost.
“It’s not necessarily about the drug as it is the effect on the community,” Collie said.
Hannon said meth is often the drug of choice in more rural areas because the drug can be cooked easily by residents in remote areas. She said even though the opioid epidemic is still terrorizing the country, around here, meth is king.
“There are a lot of resources currently being pumped into opioid use, but in Northwest Missouri, our biggest problem in terms of substance use is methamphetamine,” Hannon said.
Hannon works with patients of all ages, although the majority of her work is done with adults, she said in the past four to five years, she see’s a large number of teens and even children.
“Many years ago, we didn’t treat adolescent substance abuse because it wasn’t such a huge concern. Primarily, if we were treating adolescents it was for alcohol abuse,” Hannon said.
She said now the age children begin doing drugs is much younger than the previous norms.
“Kids are starting to use alcohol younger and younger, 10 to 11 years old. Now we’re seeing kids that are starting to smoke marijuana at 12 to 13 years old when that used to be 15 to 16 years old,” Hannon said.
Hannon said the best treatment is prevention and that starts for children at a young age.
“You need to really look at kids, young children starting 10, 12 years old and talking with them about substance use.” Hannon stated.