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The great plains state of Kansas is known as the "Sunflower State" because of—you guessed it—the magnificent fields of sunflowers that grow wild there. The name conjures up images of endless rows of spindly green stalks reaching skyward, turning their round faces up happily to drink in the sunshine. But, as entrancing as that image is, there's a dark cloud looming on the Kansas horizon, and it's far more deadly than any tornado-
The US is in the middle of the worst substance abuse crisis in our history. According to the CDC, there were 63,632 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016, or roughly 174 deaths every day. Drug and alcohol addiction is a national cancer, infecting people from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old. It's sickened people across the US, and has been merciless on the flyover states.
Much like the rest of the United States, the scourge of opioid addiction has blown through Kansas like the tornados it's so famous for, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. It's a particularly menacing foe because it's an addiction that can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive, in large part because they activate the powerful reward centers in the human brain. These drugs trigger the release of endorphins, (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters) which mask or interrupt your perception of pain and enhance feelings of pleasure and happiness, creating a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. It's only human to love the sensation- And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's in our very human nature to crave the return of that wonderful feeling that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency.
In Kansas, roughly 45% of the 345 drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018, and in 2018, Kansas providers wrote 64.3 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared to the average U.S. rate of 58.7! Prescription pill abuse can often lead to abusing other substances, so it's no wonder that Kansas is battling the drug war on several other fronts, all at the same time.
In addition to ruining lives, prescription opioid abuse can also send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is far cheaper than the pills, and usually much easier to obtain on the street.) Three out of four Americans using heroin report that their addiction began with the use of prescription opioids. The spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.to the corresponding
While heroin use is statistically lower in Kansas than some other states, the availability of Mexican black tar heroin and brown powdered heroin is growing in metropolitan areas. Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of heroin to drug markets in the Sunflower State, and Mexican criminal groups and street gangs distribute heroin at the retail level. Mexican brown powdered heroin is the predominant type available, according to the DEA.
A 2010 study took a wider look at the substances most commonly abused by youth in Kansas, and the numbers give cause for concern.
26% of Kansas high school students (grades 9-12) report they have used marijuana 1 or more times in their lifetime. This is particularly concerning because studies have shown that Marijuana negatively affects brain development in young people, and can often be a gateway to harder, more harmful drugs.
4% of Kansas youth (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in any way not directed by a doctor in the past year.
While examining the numbers can make the problem seem insurmountable, the good news for Kansas residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are more connected now than ever and "The Sunflower State" is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step. Embrace the pain that got you here. Use it, own it, and move past it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Kansas State Facts
Kansas Population: 2,687,833
Law Enforcement Officers in Kansas: 7,019
Kansas Prison Population: 14,800
Kansas Probation Population: 15,250
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 24
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Kansas
Cocaine: 227.8 kgs.
Heroin: 0.5 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 10.0 kgs.
Marijuana: 3,853.9 kgs.
Ecstasy: 5,507 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 174 (DEA, state, and local)
Kansas Drug Situation: Methamphetamine, both imported and domestically produced, is the principal drug of concern in the state of Kansas. Cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, is also readily available throughout the state, primarily in major urban areas such as Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. In addition, Kansas is a transshipment point for drugs being transported to the eastern United States via Interstates 35 and 70 from the southwest border and west coast cities.
Cocaine in Kansas: Cocaine is readily available throughout Kansas. The cocaine is transported from the West Coast by motor vehicles, and mail services. Trafficking organizations, often with direct familial ties to Mexico, bring most of the cocaine into the state where much of it is converted into crack cocaine for retail distribution. A high level of violent crime is also associated with the drug. Many different ethnic groups are involved in the retail level distribution. The proceeds from the sales are often transported back to Mexico in the same vehicles used to bring the drugs into the state.
Heroin in Kansas: Small quantities of low-purity Mexican heroin is sporadically available in personal use quantities in the urban areas of Kansas. Most of the heroin seizures are of the black-tar type.Methamphetamine in Kansas: Methamphetamine is the primary drug of concern in Kansas. Most of the methamphetamine in the state is smuggled in by Hispanic organizations via motor vehicles, commercial airlines, and mail delivery services. Large Mexican communities in Kansas provide an infrastructure to import and distribute the methamphetamine. Between 1994 and 1999, drug treatment admissions for meth in Kansas increased while admissions for heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol decreased. Local, small toxic laboratories continue to be a significant problem throughout Kansas. Laboratories in the Kansas City Metropolitan area now predominantly use the Birch method of production, as has been common in other parts of Kansas. Most of the meth laboratories in Kansas produce only ounce quantities at a time. Law enforcement man-hours and financial resources are being severely impacted by the number of laboratories and dumpsites.
Predatory Drugs in Kansas: Club and Predatory Drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy) and GHB continue to be available throughout Kansas. MDMA is found at rave parties in all parts of Kansas. Law enforcement in western Kansas reports that MDMA is brought into the area from Denver, Colorado and Asian trafficking organizations have reportedly been distributing the drug. GHB is also a drug of concern throughout the state.Marijuana in Kansas: Marijuana is readily available throughout Kansas. It is imported from Mexico through cities on the southwest border and transported in large shipments by the interstate highways through Dallas and Oklahoma City, and on to Kansas City. From Kansas City, the marijuana is further distributed to other cities in Kansas and other states. Imported marijuana from Mexico dominates the market, however indoor and hydroponically grown marijuana is a growing concern in the Kansas City area. The high purity has made it popular among users.
Other Drugs in Kansas: PCP is available primarily in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. The PCP is delivered via parcel services from traffickers based in California. Kansas treatment centers are reporting that many of their new clients are seeking treatment for OxyContin addiction. Lawrence, Kansas, reports that it is the most abused pharmaceutical drug in the area and is available for $40 a tablet.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been two MET deployments in the State of Kansas since the inception of the program: Topeka and Manhattan.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Kansas.
Special Topics: Interstates 70 and 35 cross Kansas and serve as major smuggling routes for drug trafficking organizations. During 2003, Operation Pipeline interdictions in the state of Kansas led to seizures including 650 kilograms of cocaine, one kilogram of heroin, 10,000 pounds of marijuana, 182 pounds of methamphetamine, $5.3 million dollars, and 19 vehicles.