Coroner: Drug problem is a people problem
TROY - With many community leaders and elected officials in Bradford County taking part in discussions on area drug problems, Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman believes the creation of a substance abuse agency or foundation is not the answer to the problem.
"If we're looking at law enforcement or the government to solve the drug problem; we're looking in the wrong direction," he said.
Carman explained that he believes society has become more accepting towards drug use, which in turn has caused drug usage to go up.
"We are seeing people becoming honest about their drug use, and that is a serious statement. â¦ When you're treating someone and they tell you where the best place to start the IV is, I think that speaks for itself," he said.
Carman said he has seen this increase in honesty and openness happen within the last three years.
Carman agrees that a local substance abuse facility is needed for drug users who are willing to seek help, but it will not solve the problem itself.
At the substance abuse community forum held at the Robert Packer in Sayre, "We came to the conclusion that a facility is needed in the area," he said.
The community forum was held in response to an increase in drug use in Bradford County.
The resources and funding needed for such a facility is the biggest issue as local politicians have moved to more conservative views on spending, Carman said.
According to Carman, there were nine drug related deaths in Bradford County in 2008; 12 in 2009, 11 in 2010, 13 in 2011, and 36 in 2012.
These statistics take into account all deaths where drugs played a role which can include suicides, car accidents or accidental overdose, and according to Carman, "These numbers are indicative of more users in Bradford County."
Carman attributes the sudden rise in drug related deaths partially to bath salts, a synthetic methamphetamine mixed with cocaine, which played a role in six of the 36 deaths in 2012.
Bath salts are an extremely dangerous drug which can cause body temperatures to rise to 104 degrees, he said. Most victims of bath salt overdose are subsequently found nude or in water because of the temperature increase.
The main concern in Bradford County is still with prescription drug abuse. Of prescription medication, Oxycodone and Fentanyl are the biggest worry.
Carman dismissed the notion that a lack of education on the dangers of drugs are causing the increase in drug use.
"In my line of work the average age of a drug related death is between 30 and 50. It's not a kid problem," he said.
Carman also addressed the societal impacts drug use causes.
"In my case, I look at life and death but the negative impact on society is huge," he said.
The economic impact of drug use is very severe, whether it is through offenders being imprisoned or sent to mental health units at hospitals.
"I've met very few drug users that don't end up in a mental health unit," Carman said.
In order to fix this problem, "family need to be family and friends need to be friends," he said.
It is very important for a drug user to have support of their family and friends, and not be in an environment that accepts drug use, Carman explained.
When asked if he believed the change in societal values towards acceptance of drug use can be reversed, he responded, "I believe the change can be reversed - but I am an optimist."
Tim Zyla can be reached at (570) 265-1634; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.