Education is a crucial key to dealing with substance abuse, sheriff says

Education is the most important tool in combating drug abuse in Webster County, according to Sheriff Jim Stubbs.

Specifically, he said education about prescription drug abuse is needed.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 9, Stubbs said there were 319 drug crimes that were processed in the Webster County Jail. But that number does not reflect 319 individual people. In some cases it is one person facing multiple charges.

No matter how it is calculated, though, the number 319 indicates that drug abuse is an issue in Webster County.

“Obviously it’s a significant impact,” Stubbs said. “And, also, it plays a role in several other crimes.”

The list of crimes that can be linked to substance abuse is a long one.

“Obviously you have thefts, you have domestic situations,” Stubbs said. “Sometimes robberies, burglaries, which can fall under the thefts.”

Substance abuse, which also includes alcohol, can contribute to the numbers of physical crimes, such as murders and shootings, as well.

There’s also a connection between substance abuse and mental health, Stubbs said.

“They’re very intertwined. Sometimes the substance abuse is the cause of the mental health issues, and sometimes the people with mental health issues do not seek professional help, as in physicians or psychiatrists. So they self-medicate with drugs that are purchased on the street.”

Possession of prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal and counts as a substance abuse crime, he said.

Sometimes arrests on drug charges can prevent further abuse, as the people can get treatment that way, or they could even be committed to a facility for treatment.

But even people who are clean and sober still suffer from the effects of substance abuse.

“Some of this has long-term effects,” he said. “Even if you’re off it completely, you still have some long-term effects from this.”

Among the most common prescription drugs abused are the opiates, which are painkillers.

That includes oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Stubbs calls them “safe for a short period of time.”

Heroin is another opiate. While investigators in Webster County haven’t seen much heroin abuse locally, Stubbs said it’s been increasing in the eastern part of Iowa, and there’s concern that it will eventually make its way to Webster County.

There are three drugs that Webster County sees abused most frequently, he said.

“Marijuana, meth, some cocaine in one form or another.”

According to Stubbs, Webster County’s stand against drug abuse is a broad effort.

On the investigative end, there is the work of the Webster County Drug Task Force, a collaborative effort between multiple local and state agencies.

“We have an investigator on that full time and the (Fort Dodge) Police Department does,” the sheriff said. “The state Division of Narcotics Enforcement is on that.”

Also, Webster County installed a drop box in the sheriff’s office for people to anonymously turn in unused prescription medications. Already, the drop box has seen success. Within three weeks of its installation, the Sheriff’s Department destroyed 28 pounds and 11 ounces in unused prescription drugs.

Drug Take Back events are another collaborative effort with the Sheriff’s Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The events are held twice a year.

On average, Stubbs said about 30 pounds are collected during every Drug Take Back.

By the numbers, county by area county

CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY 2016*

(In numbers of arrests)

Buena Vista County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 58 arrests

Drug equipment violations: 13

Driving Under the Influence: 64

Drunkenness: 139

Calhoun County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 1

Drug equipment violations: 0

Driving Under the Influence: 21

Drunkenness: 2

Hamilton County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 24

Drug equipment violations: 13

Driving Under the Influence: 31

Drunkenness: 19

Humboldt County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 1

Drug equipment violations: 6

Driving Under the Influence: 17

Drunkenness: 8

Kossuth County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 18

Drug equipment violations: 13

Driving Under the Influence: 21

Drunkenness: 17

Palo Alto County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 14

Drug equipment violations: 6

Driving Under the Influence: 32

Drunkenness: 14

Pocahontas County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 18

Drug equipment violations: 9

Driving Under the Influence: 15 Drunkenness: 6

Sac County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 7

Drug equipment violations: 3

Driving Under the Influence: 10 Drunkenness: 0

Webster County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 119

Drug equipment violations: 23

Driving Under the Influence: 112

Drunkenness: 14

Wright County

Drug/Narcotics violations: 33

Drug equipment violations: 12

Driving Under the Influence: 41

Drunkenness: 15

*Iowa Department of Public Safety

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