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Introduction

Drug and substance abuse in New York state has put millions of young people, majorly children and adolescents, at a huge health risk. Mainly children aged between 12-18 years are affected by the problem of drug and substance abuse in New York state. Drug abuse has put thousands of youngsters at high risks of drug-related accidents, slow physical and mental growth, illnesses as well as poor academic performance. Drug abuse amongst children in New York is a major community-based health problem (Department of Health, 2010). Various national surveys in the United States indicate that drug use among teens has remained steady for years. It is, however, vital to note that drug abuse among adolescents remains high. Drug abuse among adolescents is a complex community problem, which calls for coordinated action from various stakeholders to solve  it. This paper attempts to look into the problem of drug abuse among children between the ages of 12 - 17 years in New York state as well as to discuss available forms of treatment and challenges faced in the process of curbing the health problem.

Description of Drug Abuse in New York State

Drug abuse among children in New York is a major problem, which needs to be addressed as soon as possible in order to safeguard the future of state’s generation. There is an increased use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the state. Children using these drugs are also prone to use other dangerous drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (Department of Health, 2010). A study by the Columbia University center indicated that children who smoke tobacco are more likely to abuse marijuana than those who do not smoke tobacco. Children suffering from drug abuse have significant health problems and sometimes suffer from longtime dependency problems. It is estimated that at least half of all teenagers aged 12 and above have tried illicit drugs in their life. It is also estimated that quarter of people in the age group of 12-17 have tried using drugs other than marijuana such as cocaine or heroin (Samhsa, 2009). According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), New York’s rate of drug use among children is higher than in other states in America.

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Drug addiction among children is a persistent health problem that interferes with the functions of child’s brain. In the New York state, children who are born from drug-addicted parents are at a high risk of substance abuse. This is a result of genetic and environmental factors. While drug abuse among children continues to rise in New York, different authorities are enhancing their measures aimed at controlling the problem. The treatment of drug abuse has been considered similar to the treatment of any other medical condition like hypertension or diabetes (Samhsa, 2009). While the problem may be caused by parents and the environment, it is also imperative to note that retailer’s violation of regulations about sale of tobacco has had a great contribution to the problem as well. Retailer outlets that sell tobacco sell it to customers under the age of maturity. Such children are at high risk of abusing cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The National Survey on Drug and Health asserts that abuse of drugs leads to immense psychological distress.   

Demographic Data on Drug and Substance Abuse among Children in New York State

New York is a densely populated state with over 19 million people representing various groups of different races, ethnical backgrounds, social and economic status. The state has been termed as one of the liveliest states with various leisure facilities and events ranging from fashion, music, restaurants, and business. However, it is sad to note that majority of state’s residents are addicted to drugs. Among the addicts are children below the age of 17 years (Samhsa, 2009). The problem has been attributed to the widespread accessibility of drugs. The availability of drugs in the state has been attributed to the fact that the state is a transit hub for drugs that are smuggled to Europe, Canada, and various east coast destinations in America. Drugs in New York are distributed by drug trafficking organizations, mainly in Colombia and Mexico (Galanter, 1999).  

Drug trafficking organizations collaborate with local drug sellers in New York to ship drugs to New York. The association between these international drug traffickers and local drug dealers has made drugs cheap and readily available for children in the state. A number of different drugs are smuggled into New York, but heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are the key ones. Heroin is the main drug, which has become popular among children in the state. This conclusion was arrived at after an increased number of children were admitted for heroin abuse in New York hospitals (Galanter, 1999). Cocaine is the second most popular drug in the state. Statistics about drug abuse in New York asserts that crack cocaine is popular among low-income earners.

Marijuana is also popular in the state, especially the one smuggled from Mexico. It has been known that marijuana is also grown in some areas within the state. However, the police in association with the Drug Enforcement Administration have seized majority of plantations in the state. In addition, some prescription drugs are becoming popular among children in New York. Children abuse these drugs because they are easily accessible at home or in pharmacies. Veterinary anesthetic Ketamine is one of the key prescription drugs abused by children in the state. New York has also proved to be a state, where children often suffer from alcohol addiction. The 2006 drug abuse statistics showed that over 400,000 people in the state confessed of having addiction to alcohol and other drugs. During the study, t was also found that more than half million people were undergoing treatment in different rehabilitation treatment programs.

The Department of Mental Hygiene (DMH) is tasked with the duty to address issues related to cases of drug and substance abuse and mental health treatment. The Department of Mental Hygiene has agencies, which conduct some activities on its behalf. Such agencies include the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), which formulates and controls policies on substance and drug dependence in the state. OASAS provides services directly to drug addicts in its 10 addiction treatment centers (ATCs). The ATCs, according to OASAS, provide services to approximately 8850 clients annually. The agency also regulates other licensed substance abuse and treatment agents.

According to OASAS’s 2010 estimates, 12 percent of children between ages of 12 and 17 suffer from a disorder associated with drug use or addiction. The agency also reported that over 150,000 children suffer from drug abuse problem. This figure has increased the number of people abusing drugs in New York to 1.9 million from 1.17 million people. The agency reported that there are 1200 licensed treatment providers and 400 prevention providers in the state. According to the agency, over 300,000 clients were treated from substance and drug abuse in the state of New York (United States Congress House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, 1999).

Alcohol is highly abused in the state with about 7 million people using alcohol in one month. 5.8 percent of state’s population are heavy drinkers, 3.4 percent abuse alcohol, whereas 2.8 percent have alcohol dependence. Alcohol addicts in the state belong to all socio-demographic groups. Alcohol abuse is common amongst children and the unmarried. OASAS has attributed this abuse to problem of gambling among youngsters. Illicit drugs are also highly abused by children and adults in the state. Approximately 13 percent of adults in the state reported to be using illicit drugs in 2002. Marijuana, heroin, and cocaine are the key abused drugs. Over half a million people were reported to be using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Children are especially prone to abusing prescription drugs as the latter are freely available.      

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Various stakeholders are involved in the deterrence and control of drug abuse and dependence in the state of New York. Organizations involved in the fight against drug abuse include governmental services, non-governmental organizations, and other agencies. The problem of drug abuse and dependence has been termed as strain on the healthcare system and a danger to the future of young people who abuse drugs (Stopaddiction, 2012). The “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” has termed the problem of drug addiction an epidemic in New York.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy Programs (ONDCP) in New York is a key institution that carries out programs aimed at curbing the spread of drug abuse and addiction in New York. The institution also works hand in hand with Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program that mobilizes communities in New York to control drug use by the youth. ONDCP in collaboration with DFC offers grants to organizations, which fight against drug abuse in New York. For instance, in the year 2011 ONDCP through DFC issued grants to a number of coalitions to enhance their strength in the fight against drugs (Stopaddiction, 2012). Among the coalitions that benefited are the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Partners (ASAPP’S), PACT or the Parents and Community Together, Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK), and Islip Drug Education Awareness Coalition among others. ONDCP through the national youth antidrug media campaign educates young people about the dangers of drugs. The key component of the campaign is Above the Influence, which advices the young to reject drugs. The campaign is carried out in partnership with local community based youth organizations.

 ONDCP is a major financier of campaigns against drug abuse in New York. ONDCP has also put immense effort in the fight against prescription drug abuse. They have come up with a national plan that is titled “Epidemic Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis”. The objective of this plan is to reduce prescription drug abuse through supporting the development of national Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) (Athealth, 2011). Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) have the duty of tracking any drugs prescribed by authorized practitioners and distributed by pharmacies both in New York as well as in the entire nation. The program also assists in caring for patients and determining prior signs of drug abuse or addiction (Stopaddiction, 2012). The program is in operation in over 35 states and is funded by the state and federal funds. Thirteen other states have the prescription drug-monitoring program, but it is not yet operational.

The Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is a state agency, which is responsible for provision of services to people addicted to alcohol and drugs. The agency is obligated to oversee drug use and abuse in New York. Through the office, numerous prevention programs have been implemented in different schools and community action groups. The agency also pursues the state, Federal Government, and the private sector for funds to facilitate its activities (Athealth, 2011). The office has assisted to connect many patients to various human service agencies where they receive care. The state agency also trains people to handle drug patients. The counselors and prevention practitioners are evaluated by the agency before they qualify to offer service to clients.

Sunrise Detox is an organization in New York that provides counseling services to clients suffering from drug abuse. The organization offers counseling through any available avenue including the Internet and phone calls (Athealth, 2011). The organization helps clients suffering from alcohol or drug abuse in New York. The organization promotes inpatient drug detox as an effective way of overcoming prescription drug abuse.    

Barriers to Solving Drug Abuse in New York

Services Needed

The fight against drug abuse among children cannot be won if necessary services are not provided to the clients. Many organizations that provide services to clients lack the capacity to meet the requirements of solving client’s problems.

Access

Services provided by various programs are inaccessible to some clients suffering from drug abuse and dependence. Such clients are the ones in the interior rural areas. Majority of the programs and rehabilitation centers are found in the town centers. It is, therefore, difficult for clients in the interior villages of New York to access them. On the other hand, organizations carrying out rehabilitation activities are sometimes unable to reach teenagers in low-income village areas.

Communication Challenges

Communication between service providers and clients is difficult and sometimes impossible. This is evident especially where clients are in the interior villages of New York. Such clients may want to access services from urban areas, which proved to be difficult. Communication between various agencies dealing with drug addiction among children and teenagers is inefficient. Lack of efficient communication between the agencies hinders their ability to provide services.

Regulatory/Political Issues

Legal structures and political framework in New York are not favorable for the control of drugs circulation in the state. Drug smuggling in the state is conducted in the very eyes of the politicians. This leaves room for suspecting involvement of politicians in illegal business. The legal system does not treat drug addicts as criminals but as patients, who require detoxification from the addiction and long clean lives. This has encouraged the use of drugs among youngsters.

Inter-agency Scope of Delivery and Care

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The fight against drug abuse and addiction is a collective responsibility, which is carried out by various agencies, community based organizations, non-governmental organizations, the state as well as the federal authority. There must be close communication between these agencies in order to win the fight against drugs.

Financing Issues

Agencies dealing with drug abuse and addiction are faced by the challenge of inadequate financing to support their operations. These agencies depend on donors and grants to facilitate their operations. The state and Federal Government do not provide enough resources to these agencies. Lack of funds has made these agencies inefficient in their service delivery. This in turn has hindered success of the fight against drug abuse by children in New York state.   

Population/Human Impact

The number of people addicted to drugs in New York state is huge. New York is one of the most densely populated states with over 19 million people. This means there are many teenagers and adults suffering from drug addiction related illnesses. The huge number has hindered effective treatment services by the agencies. Identification of clients who might not be willing to volunteer is also a challenge in a densely populated area.

Major Stakeholders in the fight Against Drug Abuse in New York

The Federal Government and the state authorities are key stakeholders who can make the fight against drug abuse possible. This is through provision of finances to agencies to enable them to fight drug abuse among children. The state authorities and the Federal Government should also enhance their fight against drug smuggling. It is evident that all agencies and organizations are determined to end drug abuse in New York apart from drug smugglers.

Recommendations

The key obstacle to the fight against drugs is lack of finances. The state authority should provide more funds to agencies to enhance their fight against drug abuse. Many agencies seek for funds from donors and well-wishers.   

Conclusion

A gripping pine for drug use that continues despite its adverse effects has increased drug abuse among the children in New York state. Drug abuse is a chronic health problem for many people, which can lead to degeneration even after a long time of abstinence. The recurrence of drug abuse is commensurate with recurrence of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes. The treatment of drug abuse should be modified in a way that meets the addict’s needs. It is possible for drug addicts to recover and lead successful and productive lives if they are provided with the right treatment. The Federal Government participation in the fight together with the other agencies will promote the fight against drug abuse in New York. The factors hindering the fight, such as inaccessibility and lack of finances, should be given priority in order to end the abuse.

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