The United States is drowning in a sea of prescription and illicit drugs. Decades ago, music and movies occasionally mentioned substance abuse, mostly in big cities. Now it seems that even the smallest towns are unsafe.
The Scale Of Drug Abuse In The US
What do you think the leading cause of death is in this country? Do you think it’s heart disease or car crashes? Although seemingly logical causes, both guesses are incorrect. Drug overdoses kill more people than any other incident. In 2014 alone, nearly 50,000 people died from drug overdoses. This number combines accidental overdoses and suicides – and more than half these overdoses are attributable to opioids, such as prescription painkillers and heroin.
Across the country, more than 20 million people who are older than 12 are addicted to some kind of substance. Unfortunately, only about 3 million people actually receive treatment for their problems. The portion of users who don’t seek help is staggering and proving to be fatal.
In just the last two decades, this number has more than tripled. Many experts have simply accepted these increased measures as the new normal for our country. The rates are increasing, and perhaps more alarming is the fact that the spread of drug use is shifting as well.
Though often perceived to be a problem of urban areas, substance abuse is prevalent in rural areas. Higher rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and methamphetamine use is illustrated in this chart.
Source: 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.
Why Drugs Are Popular In Small Towns
By now, America is well aware of the drug infestation that has surfaced about rural communities. We hear about it on the news and through social media, but it can be a bit difficult to understand. Cities have higher populations and likely offer more extensive supplies. It’s also easier for dealers to hide among higher numbers and ample housing options. So why are small towns falling prey to substance abuse?
There Are Fewer Non-Drug Entertainment Options
Teenagers and young adults are particularly enthusiastic about having a good time. In many isolated communities, they don’t have access to more wholesome activities. Cities like New York may have half a dozen movie theaters within a few miles of one another. A rural town, on the other hand, might be lucky to have one. Even then, there’s a good chance that the equipment and selection will be lacking. This trend is true for other entertainment offerings too, from shopping to theme parks and restaurants. Simply put, people may just be bored.
Small town citizens are more likely to choose illegal activities just because they have a limited selection. Even though they know that these actions are against the law, many of them seek this type of behavior because of boredom.
It’s Easier For Drug Dealers To Elude The Police
Small towns have fewer cops. Even though there are fewer people to blend in with, drug dealers pick rural neighborhoods because it’s hard for the police there to address the problem. Big cities often have dedicated drug removal task forces and incredible resources at their disposal. Depending on the town’s size, a smaller municipality might have only a handful of officers.
In addition, some drug dealers will try to use violence to their benefit. These people may be armed to the teeth and staunchly aggressive. They’re prepared to fight against the police or community, if they’re pushed too far, or at least make these small departments think twice before approaching them.
It’s Easier For Users To Go Unnoticed
Cities like New York house millions of people. The streets bustle almost constantly with foot traffic – which makes it more likely that someone on drugs will be seen and reported. Thousands of people could walk past them in minutes. If they’re visibly unstable, it only takes one passerby to make a phone call and have the drug user arrested.
Rural areas offer an increased sense of privacy. Users are less likely to be seen when they’re in public under the influence, and even if they are seen, the inherently smaller police departments might not be able to respond in time. The wide-open spaces of a small town, it seems, make it easier for drugs to fill in the gaps.
Their Crimes May Go Unpunished
A drug addiction steers many people toward a life of crime. Most of it’s fueled by an ever-increasing need to acquire a substance and get a fix. When they run out of money, they begin to steal from others and sell those items for a quick return. Unfortunately, small towns may unintentionally make it easier to get away with these offenses.
Families own many of the businesses in such towns. Smaller stores, in turn, mean smaller security budgets. As a result, they’re far less likely to have cameras and effective alarms. Less protection means that the perpetrators will be braver. If no one is there to see them and the security system can’t prove it, why should they fear being caught?
Likewise, many small town homes don’t have needed safety measures. Addicts infiltrate properties and steal whatever they can to make some money or trade for more drugs. Unfortunately, the trusting and cozy mentality is conducive to crime.
The threat of drug abuse is present in every corner of our nation, and it’s important that we remain vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect our families and ourselves. Communication and education go a long way to protect against the wave of drugs.