Community’s drug problem affects everyone, not just the addicted and their families

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

By Jon Hartman
Elizabethton and Carter County has a problem — a drug problem. Now, I’m not telling you anything new, but the reality is that it affects our whole community, not just the families of those addicted. But first off, let’s talk about drug addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), drug addiction is a brain disease (emphasis on disease). Drug addiction actually changes the brain’s “structure and how it works.” Similar to heart disease, you can never truly be “cured” of drug addiction, but it can be treated to help prevent a relapse from occurring, just like treatment can help prevent another heart attack from occurring for those with heart disease.
The first and probably the easiest step to healing our community’s drug problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This has to start at a young age. As the NIH states, “if we can prevent young people from experimenting with drugs, we can prevent drug addiction.” In a National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2011 and 2012, significant increases for first-time drug users started at age 12 and didn’t significantly drop until age 25. More importantly, over 8% of first-time drug use fell between the ages of 14 to 20. This means a drug addicted adult has likely started using before they graduated from high school making college or any other post-high school training an uphill battle for them. This sets up a future workforce with little or no skills for us as a community to market and recruit new businesses to provide new job opportunities.
According to the NIH, “risk of drug abuse increases greatly during times of transition.” For an adult this could be a recent divorce, being laid off or fired from a job, or the death of a parent or loved one. If this is a family, friend, or even a neighbor, step up and offer to help! Support them during this time of transition and keep a keen eye out for signs of drug use.
Teen and adult resources are available here in our local community via the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDPC) ( In addition, the Elizabethton Police Department provides officers and support to the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force and assigns an officer working with the Sheriff’s Department locally to investigate and break up drug supply circles. We must understand that the solution to our drug problem is a multi-pronged approach. The police alone, CCDPC alone, city government alone, and major employers alone cannot solve the problem. It requires all of us as family members, friends, neighbors, or church family to solve this problem.
Drug addiction and abuse in Elizabethton affects us all. When it comes to creating more jobs, recruiting new businesses, and attracting tourists to our community our reputation precedes us. Word of mouth travels fast in business circles. Wouldn’t it be a shame to discover a business decided to locate elsewhere because one business told them, “Don’t go there! It will take you forever to hire. People can’t even pass drug tests.” To my knowledge, this hasn’t happened yet but I do know our industries and businesses are aware of this problem and it could easily lead to this type of comment. What steps can you personally take in our community, at your church, or in your neighborhood to help prevent and treat drug addiction? Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at 423-542-1503 or by email at:

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