It’s no secret- Hernando County has a huge Meth problem. It’s been growing rapidly and giving the county a bad reputation. A quick scan of local news headlines shows how prevalent this problem is. In December, a meth lab was found inside a local retirement community and a patient in the Intensive Care Unit of Bayfront Hospital was seen smoking meth in her hospital bed- while on oxygen. In January, a father and daughter team in Brooksville were arrested for meth-related crimes and the county had more than 10 separate arrests made for possession of methamphetamine. In 2016, meth labs were discovered across the street from both Spring Hill Elementary School and Springstead High School.
Methamphetamine, most commonly referred to as meth, is a stimulant that causes increased dopamine activity, which provides a pleasurable sense and euphoria much greater than many other drugs. Larger amounts of the drug get directly into the brain, making it very dangerous and highly addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states “Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning. Studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers.”
So just what is being done to stop the spread of meth addiction locally?
The Hernando County Vice and Narcotics Unit has been working hard to combat the problem. In the last year there were 42 methamphetamine related search warrants in the county, and that’s not counting all the arrests. But they cannot do it alone. Meth use in our county is a cancer that is spreading faster than it can be detected. They need help from the community and other professionals.
There’s been talk of Great Life Church creating an outreach program specifically targeting meth addicts but when asked about the specifics, the church stated that it’s still something they’re wanting to do, but nothing concrete has been set up. Many other local churches have Celebrate Recovery programs which help addicts of many kinds, but again, there’s nothing specifically targeting the main drug problem in our community.
The Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition is doing a great job of educating and advocating about the dangers of underage drinking, smoking, prescription drug abuse, and other drug related issues in our community, however they currently have no programs pertaining to meth. Executive Director, Tresa Watson took time out of her busy schedule to give me a very impressive and comprehensive presentation of all the work they are doing for our county. She has so many detailed charts and reports that cover a wide range of local issues- even how many babies were born with drug withdrawal symptoms, yet when it came to meth, she admits that they currently don’t have any programs in place or the data to get anything going.
In addition to the lack of official data, other contributing factors to the Hernando Meth Epidemic are the lack of mental health treatment and lack of drug treatment we have available in our county. Since many people turn to drugs as a way of self-medicating or coping with mental and emotional issues, it’s no wonder that a drug which causes one to feel temporarily happy is prevalent in a place where you have to drive out of the county to get most psychological or drug treatment.
The Anti-Drug Coalition needs more support from the community. For most of their current programs, Watson says that DCF, HCSO, or some other local organization contacted them with the data and requested help with the issue, which enabled them to jump in and get the ball rolling. But this time, no one is reaching out. If the community bands together and declares that it’s time for a change, collectively we can make a difference!
If you’d like to help out or just let your voice be heard, you can contact The Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition at 352-596-8000 or www.hernandocommmunitycoalition.org.