Community members discuss how drugs are affecting the youth in the Valley

Local News

“These people, myself at one point, feel so alone. We feel isolated, we feel like nobody understands. Like we’re the only people going through this problem,” said Luke Wollet, who has overcome addiction.

The Mahoning County Juvenile Court held its fifth Opioid Summit and discussed how drugs are affecting the youth of our community.

Drug addiction has become an overwhelming concern in the Valley.

“We’ve definitely seen a problem with substance use in the Mahoning Valley,” said Angela Devito, executive director of the Coalition for Drug Free Mahoning County.

But, adults are not the only ones affected.

Devito says it can be hard for some adolescents’ to get support because of where they are getting the drugs from.

“But we’re seeing more trends where the substance use doesn’t begin with the young person in the household, rather than it’s generational. And, so where a grandparent or parent may now be the person who is drinking along side of them or being the person who shares marijuana with them, we’re seeing more of that increase than we had seen in prior years,” Devito said.

During a child’s teenage years, the brain is still developing and substances, such as alcohol, marijuana and opioids can have long lasting effects. 

“We know that there is a final part of development that happens, really between the ages of kind of 14 to 26, and knowing that is actually being impaired, makes for poor life long decision making,” said William Goldman, pediatrician and medical director of Akron Children’s Addiction Service Program.

Goldman said there are many reasons for misusing opioids, but the number one reason is the easy access.

Brandon Stevens recalled the journey he took to overcome addiction as a young man.

“When I got arrested I felt like my life’s over, and this is what I’m going to live for, for the years I have ahead,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the support from others helps make a difference.

“I met some very, very great people, and the love that they showed me, the care that they had for me, and they didn’t even know me. I was just a random person from Youngstown that came into rehab,” he said.

“My father was placed in my life, because these drugs, the pain of living finally surpassed the joy I got from using, and praise Jesus that my father, something tugged on his heart to come to Cincinnati to offer me help,” Wollet said.

“Recognizing this as a chronic relapsing illness, it’s something we can make impact in youth. Rather than wait until they’re much older in life,” Goldman said. 

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