It might surprise you to read the words “Amish” and “heroin” in the same sentence. But Amish people are hardly immune to the scourge of drug abuse.

Amish in Wayne County, Indiana recently invited former addict and anti-heroin campaigner Michael DeLeon to speak to their community. RTV6 did a story on the meeting, accompanied by a pair of videos.

In the first video below, DeLeon and “Amish elder” (I assume they mean bishop) Ben Stoltzfus discuss the problem. In the clip, heroin use is described as “rampant” in Amish settlements in Pennsylvania and other places.

To bring in an outside speaker means there is real reason for concern among the Amish in this eastern Indiana settlement (which has close ties to Lancaster County, its parent community). “We’re subject to the same,” says Stoltzfus. “It’s just slowly creeping in here.”

Drugs an issue in other Amish communities

Hearing about drug use among the Amish thwarts the stereotype of a life of idyllic isolation.

But Amish life is not isolated from these issues. DeLeon’s presence in this community reflects real people dealing with real challenges.

Some Amish might point the finger at the nature of life today in some Amish communities, especially the larger ones.

Truth be told I have actually heard more often about drug use in northern Indiana, with its faster culture of intense RV factory shift work (read more on three challenges to Amish life presented by the RV industry).

I recently heard that a more innocuous drug, Adderall (a stimulant commonly used to treat ADHD) is becoming popular among youth of that settlement. Methamphetamine has also been a concern in that community, dating back nearly a decade if not further.

Other Amish settlements have dealt with drug abuse as well, as can be seen in this article on drug parties in Holmes County, Ohio, or the open forum on drug issues called by Amish bishops in Geauga County, Ohio.

Kudos to the leadership in this Wayne County community not being afraid to bring in an outsider to tackle an issue that might have been treated as taboo, or simply ignored in another era. What motivated them to do so?

By what Stoltzfus says in the second video above, they have had occurrences within their own community (this is not a giant settlement, but neither is it small, at around 1,000 people).

They are probably well aware of the problem in other Amish areas, not to mention in the surrounding non-Amish community. In East Central Indiana, including Wayne County, heroin use is described as “epidemic.”

Deleone describes his mission in the area as educating Amish parents so they can be aware of signs of use among their children. Area pastor Jeff Shafer adds, “Amish are people too…It’s a human problem, isn’t it?”