KEYSER - Keith Anderson, chief deputy of the Mineral County Sheriff's Department who has 15 years in law enforcement, said Thursday during the Substance Abuse Town Hall meeting that the problem of substance abuse has “been too long in our area.”

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Keith Anderson, chief deputy of the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department who has 15 years in law enforcement, said Thursday during the Substance Abuse Town Hall meeting that the problem of substance abuse has “been too long in our area.”
He gave an overview of the substances, as he named marijuana as the “base of drug usage” and likely to be the “first drug used by addicts.”
Anderson made note of several “very dangerous” substances, such as the synthetic drugs K-2, spice, and bath salts, which will alter the mental and physical state of the user.
He mentioned that heroin is now mixed with fentanyl, and, “This drug has devastated this area.” It is ten times as potent as marijuana.
Anderson said the Drug Task Force has discovered more fentanyl and less heroin is now being used by addicts.
Another illegal drug he said is methamphetamine, which has increased in popularity among drug users in the past 18 months and causes increased violence and unpredictable actions among the users.
“Users can be anyone,” Anderson said, and signs of this included lying, mood changes, anger, aggressiveness, along with the lack of and the need for money.
He also said illegal drug users can be withdrawn, with a change in appearance such as loss of weight.
“We can not change the habits of an addict; they have to want to change,” he said.
Christian “Lucky” Arnold was also a guest speaker at the meeting, saying he was known to be the model student at Keyser High School.
Following his high school graduation, he continued his education at West Virginia University in the nursing program and in time began using illegal drugs.
He said, Drugs stole my bright future.”
“I came from a great family,” Arnold said, saying that he had a wonderful upbringing, but became, “like a bird in a cage.”
“Addiction can take over your life,” he said, adding that he hit rock bottom by using prescription pain pills.
Arnold said that he was “kicked out of nursing school” and soon after spent 21 days in a psychiatric hospital, where weeks before he was at that facility as a nursing student.
For a time he stayed clean, but then relapsed, spending time at a regional jail.
Arnold told of being left a house by a relative, and, “I sold the house for drug money.”
During this time, he said that he had lack of emotions, suffered with depression, anxiety, and was malnourished, and all this effected his family.
“I lied, stole, cheated, and was verbally abusive,” Arnold said.
“The person standing here tonight is not the same person as the addict,” he said.
The first thing Arnold said was to call his mother, and at that time she was in Virginia, but she came and took him to the Keyser Assembly of God Church to meet with the Rev. Johnson.
In receiving counseling from Johnson, Arnold said that it was determined that 30 days to get clean would not be enough time, and the decision was made to go to a Teen Challenge Program in Delaware.
Arnold said the program would be for a year, and, “It changed my life.”
He said that he gained a personal relationship with God and began to learn of His love.
“It was rough,” Arnold said, while he suffered from body aches, depression, “But a lot of people helped me.”
Following the year-long program, “I began to set goals in my life,” asking the audience to instill morals and values in the children in their lives and spend time with grandchildren or a neighborhood teen.
Arnold used the word “focus” in his life with the meaning being forgiveness, obedience, consistency, unity, and success.
The main speaker for the town hall meeting was Dr. Alfgeir Kristjansson, from the WV School of Public Health, Morgantown, and he said that his part of substance abuse was on the preventative end.
He said that prevention method is best and to “not wait until there is a huge problem,” as he gave information on how Iceland went around the problem.
Kristjansson mentioned that prevention methods were all the same in the many countries and areas where he studies.
He gave alcohol usage as the beginning of what could be drug abuse among young people, and a support team is needed to change behavior, and not “to wait until there are drug problems.”
Kristjansson said the practice used in Iceland for drug abuse is a long-term commitment.
He suggested the creation of strong communities would be useful, giving schools as a community, along with parents also being a community unit.
Identifying risk factors was identified by Kristjansson, and drug usage could develop in “children having nothing to do after the school day.”
He suggested to change the environment of children, because, “They don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I am going to be a drug addict.’”
Kristjansson said that changing the environment takes time, maintenance, consistency, and team collaboration.