By Karen Blackledge
The Daily Item
DANVILLE — For the first time in the history of the Columbia Montour Union Snyder Drug and Alcohol Program, drugs overtook alcohol as the primary abused substance in 2013.
In fiscal year 2012-13, 253 people in the four-county area said opiates were their primary abused substance compared with 210 people listing alcohol.
“It usually has been alcohol,” said Barbara Gorrell, drug and alcohol administrator for the four counties.
During the past eight years, she has seen a 70 percent to 80 percent increase in drug and alcohol use.
“We have definitely seen an increase in opiates,” she said.
Drug counselors see abuse of prescription pills and an increase in methamphetamine use. “There definitely has been an increase in meth in the last 18 months that we haven’t seen before,” she said.
There also has been a steady increase in the use of heroin among young adults ages 18 to 29, she said.
Heroin is available, and it is cheap. “If prescription drugs aren’t available, they may turn to heroin as a substitute,” she said.
Counselors are seeing an increase in young people seeking their services. “They have complicated histories, are a challenge to treat and lack job skills, lack family support and there could be mental health issues,” Gorrell said.
Some of this could be due to a worsened economic climate in the area that has reduced manufacturing jobs, employment that previously may have been available to them, she said.
The four-county agency provided services to 599 people for drug and alcohol abuse in 2012-13, representing 242 from Columbia County, 47 from Montour County, 160 from Snyder County and 150 from Union County.
It was an overall decrease from the 672 people treated in 2011-12.
The agency, funded by the counties and the state and federal governments, provides free services to the uninsured and will assist people with insurance who are seeking treatment services.
Levels of care offered include outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, hospital detoxification, hospital inpatient, nonhospital detoxification, nonhospital inpatient and halfway house.
Besides the base service unit on East Market Street in Danville, the CMSU has locations in Bloomsburg, Lewisburg and Middleburg.