Drug Abuse Task Force Holds Information Forum

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Various drugs inherent in our country and our community were outlined and explained during an educational community forum held by the Southeast Colorado Substance Abuse Task Force this past Tuesday, May 20 at the Cultural Events Center.

Concerned citizens and city and county representatives attended the session conducted by Prowers County Sheriff Senior Deputy Sam Zordel and Colorado State Patrol Corporal Vince Benavides, Kathy McKorkle of RESADA and Cindy Vigil of the Task Force.  A growing concern about drug abuse, especially the increase in heroin use in the Lamar community brought physicians, local law enforcement and local county and city representatives to develop a plan to help inform residents about the impact of the drug and its effects on the population, especially local youth.  The Task Force has been meeting for the past several months, every other Wednesday at 1pm at the city municipal complex, and Tuesday’s meeting was the first that was held to help educate the community about the types of drugs that are being used and the consequences, physical and mental, that come from their use.

Zordel and Benavides noted through their power point discussion that there are seven groups of drugs that can be ingested in five different ways: orally, on the skin, inhalation, injected and snorted.  Zordel said the response times for the types of drugs and how they are ingested can take from 20 to 40 minutes to six to ten seconds.  The most common means of identifying their being used is generally abnormal behavior to normal everyday circumstances.

The types of drugs range from stimulants such as cocaine to depressants like alcohol, Valium, Xanax, Prozac or Zoloft.  Others in the drug classifications include:  hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants and cannabis related drugs.  There are various types of indicators that develop from use of the drugs and some of them may overlap, ranging from eye-twitching, nervous and jerky motions, lethargic activity, hyper-activity, slurred speech or lack of motor control of the body.

There are several levels of potency in the cannabis or marijuana group, which is the most commonly used drug in the country today. Colorado now stands out as the state in the nation which has legalized recreational drug use and sales since the passage of Amendment 64 in the last general election.  Both officers noted that the potency of home or illegally manufactured drugs is hard to register, but the potency of marijuana in general has increased over the past several decades.  “What was used in the 1960s had a THC level of about 7% and today, the active ingredient in grass has climbed to about 35 to 37% for the same amount smoked.  Hash oil is also high in THC content, but the manufacturing process of combining butane gas with heat and the drug has also brought about a number of hash oil-related explosions and fires in the state since the drug has been legalized.

McKorkle and Vigil closed the forum with a discussion on the works of the local task force, local resources for drug prevention and rehabilitation and how a Drug Court has been used in Otero County in the 16th Judicial District.  McKorkle said RESADA is the Region Six Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center for this area.  It features outpatient services in Lamar, Las Animas and La Junta, as well as in-patient services in Las Animas which features a 30 day treatment program.  The court, McKorkle explained, sets stringent regulatory measures against a drug violator who works with a probation officer and the court to get off the drug.  This is an option through the Drug Court that a drug user can choose instead of jail time.  “It employs a team approach,” she said, “Which includes the judge, counselors, a probation officer, random urine testing, a progress evaluation and from three to five classes a week over a several month period.”  Vigil added that an attempt to create a Drug Court in Prowers County for the 15th Judicial District did not succeed five years ago, but if funding could be found, it would be an asset to the situation being faced locally.  Vigil, who told the audience she had been a drug user in her past, now combines her education with her experiences and conducts an open session every Wednesday at the Rodeway Cow Palace Inn from 6pm to 8pm.  “There’s no judgment that takes place.  Sometimes there’s only two of three of us or sometimes more.  We’re open to family, friends, concerned citizens or someone who wants to find out where they can get help.  That’s what this is all about.”

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: CityCommissionerscommunityCountyEducationFeaturedHealthLamarLaw EnforcementPolice ReportsProwers CountyPublic SafetySchoolYouth


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