For years police, school officials, and other public figures have been stating that drug abuse is a major local problem.

Some individuals might have become impervious to the constant warnings. Many are apathetic, falsely convincing themselves that the problem isn't in their neighborhood. The truth is, the problem appears to be worse than ever:

Ÿ Just in the past week, a confirmed methamphetamine lab was found in a home in the center of town in Lehighton. Had it exploded, who knows how many houses might have burned, or lives might have been lost.

Ÿ In the past few months, there have been meth labs found in homes in Summit Hill, Coaldale, Rush Township, and numerous other communities. If all these places were raided, how many more exist? Obviously there is a customer base for the meth.

Ÿ Jim Thorpe Police confiscated about $20,000 worth of heroin from an individual during a traffic stop last weekend. Police said the heroin represents about a three-day distribution.

Ÿ On tomorrow's magisterial schedule in Carbon County, there are a total of 18 hearings scheduled among two district judges. It's a light day compared to some weeks. Of those hearings, eight of them - or nearly 45 percent - have drug involvement whether it be heroin, marijuana, or something else.

Consider these hearings are all adults and not children. Drug charges against kids are heard in juvenile court.

So many adults are using abusive drugs, we can only imagine what's happening with the youths.

The statistics don't tell the whole story. How many burglaries occur because drug users are trying to get money to satisfy their habits; to purchase those tiny $20 bags of heroin?

How many domestic abuse cases are happening because drug-crazed addicts don't know what they're doing?

How many child abuse offenses are happening because of drugs?

In the latter examples, there might not be drug charges filed if arrests are made because no illegal drugs were found on the individuals, but they are directly tied to drug abuse.

Drug abuse is a major problem locally. Any police officer will tell you that. Most school officials will admit this.

The police have a drug task force to combat drug abuse. Schools have programs on drug awareness.

Parents have to get involved, too. They must be more cognizant of their children's activities, friends, and whereabouts.

Police must be kept informed of illegal activity. Anyone seeing suspicious activity, whether it be in a parked car, a parking lot, or on a street corner, they must opt to get involved and report it to police. Turning away from an obvious problem only makes it worse.

We owe it to our children to fight drug abuse. We'd like to see the courts get tougher with both pushers and addicts.

Too often individuals arrested for drugs get away with serving little or no jail time. This is wrong. Drugs are illegal and anyone disobeying the law should be held accountable for their actions.

There is a serious drug problem in the region. And that problem is getting worse. Only through individuals becoming involved and helping police and school officials combat the problem will our younger generation be protected.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com