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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers

By John W. Kennedy (September 15, 2002)

The good news in the campaign against illegal drugs is that fewer Americans are using cocaine and crack compared to the epidemic two decades ago. The bad news is that a host of other equally addictive, often less expensive, illegal drugs are available and being used by ever younger abusers eager to participate in social fads.

With tighter security reducing the flow of some longtime drugs at the nation’s borders, users today are turning to new sources for highs, from crudely crafted backwoods laboratories to falsified prescriptions.

There are myriad paths to abuse. "With the rise of the chemical drug trade, the game has changed dramatically," Howard Simon, spokesman for Partnership for a Drug-Free America in New York City, told PE Report. "It’s no longer what you can grow or what you can bring into the country. Now someone with a knowledge of chemistry can tweak a molecule and an existing drug can be transformed into something totally different."

Jennifer DeVallance, spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in Rockville, Md., says 4.5 million people have drug dependency problems, 23 percent of those being teenagers. "We’ve never had a teen population with such a high rate of dependency before," she says.

The steepest climb has been in Ecstasy, a synthetic pill made of a compound called MDMA. Teen use rose 20 percent last year. Although the pill costs under a dollar to produce, a dose sells for $10 to $40 on the street.

Ecstasy has become the most popular "recreational" drug. It has branched from suburban nightclubs in the mid-1980s to mainstream society. A Partnership for a Drug-Free America survey last year found that 12 percent of teenagers had tried the drug.

"Ecstasy has moved beyond the rave scene and late-night parties into schools and neighborhoods," DeVallance, 32, told PE Report.

Ecstasy has a chemical structure that contains both amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. It has caused as many as 41 deaths a year. The pill, which increases heart rate and body temperature, also can cause heart, liver or brain damage.

But Simon, 34, says many people in a society accustomed to taking pain medication for various ailments don’t recognize the potential danger of popping several Ecstasy pills a night. "It’s not something you shoot, snort or smoke," he says.

OxyContin has been on the market for only six years but it has become the most abused prescription drug in America. Nationwide, dozens of pharmacies have been robbed to obtain OxyContin, originally designed to be a 12-hour dose for cancer patients in severe pain. "Some enterprising folks found if they crushed the pill designed as a time-released drug they could snort the powder and get the impact all at once," Simon says. "It provides a heroin-like high."

Last year, Newsweek described how the town of Hazard, Ky., got hooked on the painkiller, known as "hillbilly heroin." But Paul E. Hamon, pastor of Victory Assembly of God in Hazard, says the town of 4,800 isn’t unique. "I’m not saying we don’t have a drug problem, but it’s no worse than Louisville or New York City," Hamon says. "Oxy is not just an eastern Kentucky problem. It’s a national problem."

It’s also a younger problem. For instance, in July seven students at a Cadillac, Mich., junior high school pleaded guilty to possessing or distributing OxyContin.

Other drugs are impacting younger lives. The average age of first-time marijuana users has dropped to 13 from 19 in the past generation. Chris Barbre smoked marijuana for a while and told himself he would never use anything harder. But by age 17 he wanted to try something new and a cousin offered him methamphetamine, a white odorless crystalline powder psychostimulant that can be smoked, swallowed, injected or snorted.

"I was scared at first, but I was curious," says Barbre, then of New Madrid, Mo., population 3,300. "Everybody seemed to be using it and I wanted to get the same feeling."

Soon he began stealing anhydrous ammonia from farms to make methamphetamine for a friend. Then he began to work alone. "I figured I might as well go into business for myself once I knew how to do it," says Barbre, now 23. "A 14-year-old can mix it up. It’s not hard at all." Methamphetamine sells for between $40 to $330 a gram.

After a couple of arrests for manufacturing and using meth, Barbre enrolled in the Teen Challenge program in Hot Springs, Ark. Arkansas is the nation’s top per capita producer and distributor of meth, although clandestine labs of dangerous chemicals can be found throughout the country. Of the four dozen residents at the Teen Challenge center, three-fourths had meth addictions.

Rural America has more of a drug problem in some cases than urban communities. A recent study by Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that eighth graders in rural American communities are 104 percent more likely than urban counterparts to use amphetamines.

Barbre, who graduated at Teen Challenge two years ago and now is on staff with hopes of becoming an evangelist, didn’t count on the addictive nature of meth. "I didn’t see any way out," he says. "It will overtake you eventually. When it has you, the only hope for help is Jesus Christ."

Not all the news is bad. Since 1985, regular illegal drug use by Americans has dropped. But the war against drugs is far from over.

"The largest drug threat is still marijuana, followed by cocaine," DeVallance says. The fight against marijuana is increasingly difficult because many view it as harmless. In a Gallup poll last year, 34 percent of Americans (more than in any previous poll) indicated they favor legalization of marijuana. In fact, a Partnership for Drug-Free America survey in 2000 found that 20 percent of teens had shared drugs with their parents.

Prevention is certainly possible. "Surveys show that parents are the number one factor in preventing teenage drug abuse," DeVallance says.

"Parents have a tremendous influence on their kids," Simon agrees. "Those who learn about drug risks at home are less likely to use. Even if your kids are rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders and looking like they’re tuning you out, the reality is the message is getting through."


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