DES MOINES, Iowa — According to the 2020 Iowa Drug Strategy report, the state now ranks 47th in the U.S. in the rate of overall illicit drug use. This proves that the state has made much progress in dealing with drug abuse and opioid deaths.
The Director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control, Dale Woolery, isn’t worried about how Iowa’s drug problem looks up against other states. He cares about the growing issues still in Iowa and trying to find solutions.
“We tend to ride above the national average on binge drinking. Tobacco use is fairly high. Methamphetamine use is fairly high. And again just because we may rank differently from another state, in the numbers, the reality is that a lot of Iowans are still at risk,” Woolery said.
Woolery notes that drugs that may lead to addiction aren’t the same from years past and have higher potency levels. The drug control strategy reported that the growth of craft beers and infused alcoholic drinks leads to more beverages containing a higher concentration of alcohol. And confiscated marijuana and vape pens contain 30% more THC levels than researchers have seen in drugs more than two decades ago. Although not fatal, Healthline.com says higher levels of THC can have harmful side effects on the brain and in extreme cases lead to psychiatric disorders among adolescents.
“So we all need to be on our feet. And prepare to be as nimble as possible, educate young Iowans and hopefully we can do a better job at preventing substance abuse,” Woolery said.
Woolery said Iowans can help reduce the levels of drug use by educating the youth.
He stated that one-fourth of high school juniors find marijuana harmless and there’s still a growing number of teenagers who vape. However, he also says teenagers are less likely to use drugs if it’s talked about in their household.
“Some of the other national research indicates that one of the main reasons teenagers who don’t use drugs cite for not using drugs is the fear of disappointing their parents. So again that family influence is probably the most important thing,” Woolery said.
Come January, marijuana will be legal in the neighboring state of Illinois. When asked if he thinks Iowa will legalize marijuana in the near future, Woolery said he hopes that the state doesn’t. He believes some negative public safety ramifications linked to the drug have not yet been sorted out and he wants to ensure that Iowans are safe.
Woolery also wanted to emphasize that whether you live in a more rural area, the city, or the suburbs — it doesn’t matter. Drug abuse is an issue that affects all of Iowa and should be treated as such. He advises if you or anyone you know is fighting addiction, to visit the site, yourlifeiowa.org for assistance.