The high rate of drug use in Michigan is frightening. Kent and Ottawa counties in the state of Michigan are struggling with high drug use. Research has shown that statewide drug and alcohol use is starting at a very early age, with over 50% of drug users admitting that their first use was before age 18.
Specific drug use by teenagers has been gathered by Ottawa County:
- one in five students currently uses alcohol.
- one in eight students reports binge drinking.
- one in seven students say they use marijuana.
- In Ottawa county specifically, students say their first drug experience is at around age 13.
In Kent County, the following is the percentage of various drug addictions treated in treatment facilites:
- Alcohol 45.6%
- Cocaine 12.3%
- Marijuana 17.0%
- Heroin 10.3%
- Other Opiates 12.1%
- Methamphetamines 1.0
- Other stimulants 0.3%
- All others 1.4%
Ottawa County has this data for treatment facilities:
- Alcohol 42.1%
- Cocaine 6.7%
- Marijuana 20.7%
- Heroin 10.9%
- Other Opiates 13.3%
- Methamphetamine 0.6%
- Other Stimulants 0.1%
- All others 5.6%
Of those in treatment statewide, over 56% are under 35 years old. At 64%, an overwhelming majority of those seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction are unemployed. The majority (54%) of those in treatment are not court ordered to be there. Nearly 80% of those in treatment make less than $10,000 annually and only 21.5% have higher than a high school diploma.
Both counties are battling high levels of drug use overall, with alcohol being the most frequently abused. Among the many risks of excess alcohol are injuries that result from an accident and poor judgement that can lead to a host of other problems including unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, or driving drunk and potentially injuring or killing someone are all possibilities when consuming excess alcohol. Physically speaking, alcohol raises blood pressure which can lead to stroke or cardiovascular events. Alcohol consumption can also lead to neurological damage and sexual dysfunction. Prolonged alcohol excess can lead to liver problems. Consuming alcohol while pregnant can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a permanent and devastating illness.
Cocaine and methamphetamine use have many of the same long term effects of increased risk of heart attack, violent behavior, muscle twitches, paranoia and vertigo in the short term. Long term use can cause heart attacks, headaches, seizures, nausea, abdominal pain and sometimes death. Decreased sense of smell and nosebleeds can be caused by snorting cocaine, and collapsed veins is a common side effect of injecting it. Long term use usually leads to depression, isolation from family and friends due to paranoia and respiratory infections.
The most serious long term effect of heroin and other opiates is severe addiction. Isolation is common as families cut ties. Addicts who inject heroin often suffer from collapsed veins, arthritis and diseases such as HIV or AIDS due to sharing of needles.
Smoking marijuana long term can lead to the same cancer risks that are associated with smoking tobacco. Memory loss and learning difficulties are also associated with regular marijuana use.
Despite these alarming numbers Kent and Ottawa counties in partnership with the state government, are working hard to address and lower the rates of drug use and addiction through several initiatives. Kent County Preventative Coalition has developed a team of over 30 groups to teach the importance of drug and addiction prevention. Ottawa Substance Abuse Prevention similarly has identified effective ideas for preventing drug abuse to their targeted teen audiences.