Drug & Alcohol Concerns for Ohio Amish

From WKBN:

Approximately 200 Amish residents in Trumbull County gathered at the Mesopotamia fire station Monday evening for an open forum to discuss drug issues relating to heroin and methamphetamine.

The meeting was called at the request of bishops within the Amish community, who reached out to police for help. Our station was asked not to show video from inside the meeting, but two police officers and a member the Trumbull Ashtabula Group drug task force spoke, and went over meth and heroin awareness tips.

Police also addressed vandalism and underage drinking, saying there has been a rise in large parties where Amish kids are drinking, but police can’t do anything about it if no one speaks up.  They urged the community to “help us help you.”

“To this point, the Amish generally don’t like to report things. They like to take care of it in their own church. What we’re trying to do is get cooperation so we can help them and aid them in correcting some of these problems,” said Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Harold Firster.

No doubt these concerns have been exacerbated by the shooting of two Geauga County Amish teens two weeks ago (it’s not explained above, but this meeting happened in the Geauga County settlement, which extends into Trumbull County).

The teens were shot on a Saturday while picking up stereo equipment, which suggests a party may have been at hand.

Reporting crime has been an issue in some Amish communities.  While some do report incidents to authorities, instinct, custom, and religious belief lead others to keep things quiet.

However, this bit in the report just seemed bizarre:  “Many Amish are fearful that should they speak up, there would be repercussions of some sort, similar to the beard cutting incidents that had taken place several years ago.”

I’m not sure who’ll be doing the beard cutting, since that was a Sam Mullet creation, and not an Amish disciplinary practice. Sounds more like someone’s conjecture inserted into the piece.

Interestingly, Amish in this same community have not had a problem reporting incidents in the recent past, at least in the case of a pair of robberies perpetrated against Amish couples in 2012.

Said one Amishman at the time: “If they think the Amish people won’t report it and press charges, they’re wrong, because we will. They need to go to prison, and that’s what the government is here for, they’re ordained from God to prosecute the people who do wrong.”

This particular person sounded adamant about getting police involved, which seems in sharp contrast to what the authorities are suggesting in the report.

Perhaps it depends on what the crime is, or who is doing the reporting, or who is apt to get into trouble. For that matter I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect parents, Amish or English, to inform police of their children’s parties, unless something really troubling is going on.

Geauga County has had a reputation for rowdy Amish youth.  That typically translates into alcohol and parties, though may verge into more sinister realms. Though I have no idea if the efforts concerning hard drugs are proactive or reactive in this case.

What do you think?

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    1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      I think it’s tremendously responsible for the Amish of this community to extent a hand of good will and concern to the local authorities, cultural and religious opinions aside it is important for communities to ask for help when they need to here and perhaps they need to. I also think it was nice that the local media respected the Amish belief system not to publish footage of Amish participants at the forum.

      Aside (and silly, off topic sort of) I love American and Canadian town and community names sometimes, Mesopotamia is one of those cool old world ancient names that is, well, probably unique.

    2. Andrea green

      This is very sad that evan young Amish Youth are effected by drugs and alcohol, i have work voluntarily for several years will young people, mainly in well to do areas, this has been one of the big issues there, most young folk belong to good familys even commited christian familys, its so easy for kids to get there hands on drugs.
      One of my roles was a chaplain in a high school at lunch time, there bold as brass as we say here in England was a man that jumped the school fence and was selling drugs, we called the police cause he was a harden criminal, sadly he had gone before the police arrived, we did manage to get what drugs they had but some, well we could not find !! This high school was one of the best in the north east where i lived, and it was a christian school with a strong moral ethos on christian faith. So in away i am not surprised that Amish youth Been targeted and sold drugs also, this is the sign of a decaying world, we must keep are towns and city covered in pray, i go pray walking around my area where i live, but we need to pray for young and even older adults, because the enemy has a foot hold with drugs, we must pray for these shackles to be broken in all walks of life. Lets get some series praying for these folk. 🙂

      1. Sue

        Drug & Alcohol

        I agree Andrea, I have 2 teenage daughters and it`s quite worrying as a parent. But it makes me feel quite sad that this has now come to The Amish community. I am a recovering alcoholic, so I know what it does, I have not drank alcohol for over 15 years, and my daughters have never seen me drunk, I`m very grateful to say. Unfortunately drugs and alcohol is like a virus. I also pray each day that my God will keep me sober.

    3. Close By

      Interesting report. It could be conjecture about the Amish being afraid to speak up, but there could also be something else going on. Like any community, there are secrets. Mullet’s “gang” has been prosecuted and consequences dealt, but who knows if there are others who might pick up where he left off? They sent those perpetrators to different prisons for a reason, even though the reason wasn’t clearly divulged.

      Geauga County Amish are well-interspersed with the “Yankees” in the area. This could also be a signal to everyone, Amish and Yankee, that the police are taking the matter seriously and the Amish are being as cooperative as they can.

    4. Teens

      I taught middle school, high school, and college for 15 years. No group is exempt from these problems – which is why I often address drug and alcohol addiction in my Amish novels.

      The Amish families that I have met seemed to understand that this is a problem that has to be dealt with – in one form or another – and can’t be ignored.

      Also I spoke to members from a community in Indiana who had reported thefts. The women and men who worked in town always were paid on Friday. They’d go to the bank (yes, they use banks) and cash their checks, then ride their bike home. Someone started robbing girls on Fridays, when they were sure to have cash. The bishop and the girls reported this in order to keep it from happening in the future.

    5. Debbie H

      As I stated in a previous article I think the Amish should rethink rumspringa. It leads to many illegal and unnecessary problems.

      1. Ed

        Debbie, I think it is very important that Amish youth (indeed, all youths) have a chance to explore the outside world a bit before making a lifelong commitment to be baptized Amish. I think that’s what Rumspringa is about. That some youths make mistakes or become involved with the seedier aspects of our society does not mean that all of them do or negate the importance of this coming of age period.

    6. Andrea green

      @ vannetta chapman, just bought one of your books on my kindle a promise for miriam will look forward to reading your book. 🙂

      1. Thanks

        Thank you Andrea. Book 2 & 3 in that series are two of the places I deal with this topic of Amish teens in trouble.

    7. Lattice

      Meth and heroin?? Gee!

      Any chance it was designed to be a scare tactic, like, “This is where you’re headed if you don’t quit smoking and drinking!”??

    8. Alice Mary

      This (drug problems amongst Amish teens) is exactly what I heard of from an English tour guide who lives in the Shipshewana area, just last Spring. She mentioned that the father of the teenaged Amish girl who ran one of the shops we visited (who had recently dyed her naturally blonde hair black) “picked his battles” with her, and didn’t protest so much because “at least she isn’t doing drugs”, which is a large problem among Amish teens in the area. My bus (mostly people over 50) was pretty shocked that there WAS such a thing as a drug problem in Amish territory. But many (maybe most) Amish there are employed in “English”-owned businesses, especially the RV industry. As more young people rub elbows with the English at work & “play”, and earn very “nice” salaries, temptations multiply. However, our guide reassured us that most (around 90%) teens in that area do end up joining the Amish church, eventually.

      Alice Mary

      1. Rose

        Mary Ann, why do you feel it is important for the Amish youth to join the Amish church? There are many other church’s who follow Jesus instead of man made rules. Why shouldn’t they join one that follows Jesus?

    9. Ed

      Sounds pretty proactive to me – both on the part of the Amish bishops and on the part of the police. There must be a lot of good will all around in Mesopotamia. Sadly, in some places there is a lot of acrimony between police and residents.

      Calling the cops on one’s offspring I think is pretty extreme. The criminal justice system often takes on a life of its own, and there are those spending years in prison due to minor drug offenses. So having an open forum about the problem might be the best way to proceed. Just acknowledging that a problem exists is usually half the battle to solve it.

      1. Katrina

        Ed, I agree with you on what you wrote. I think the meeting was partially held to make Amish parents aware of addiction signs among teens and signs of alcohol abuse. Rumspringa is needed, as Amish teens are expected to make the choice to be baptized of their own free will. Having explored the English world, most teens eventually decide it’s not so great and they aren’t missing that much.

    10. Don Curtis

      Mark's take on this

      I asked my son, Mark, who joined the Amish what he thought about all of this. Of course, Mark regrets that any Amish youth would be involved in drugs. He feels that not just the youth need to be dealt with. the entire community needs to face up to their failures and responsibilities. There are certain Amish communities, according to Mark, that are known for wild youth. It has become a tradition in those communities to turn a blind eye to the youth by the parents and the ministers and just let them go. “We’ve always done it that way.” Mark says that one of the strengths of the Amish is that they are a people of tradition. And, one of their biggest weaknesses is that they are a people of tradition. If it’s a bad tradition they just keep on perpetuating it whether or no. Now there are Amish youth getting involved in things that must be dealt with and nobody knows what to do. They are getting involved in things like drugs that the Amish have no concept of how to deal with it so they try to ignore it. If Amish kids develop a drug habit they can’t just give it up and settle down on joining church. Drugs change the whole body chemistry. They can’t just drop it. The Amish have no experience in these kinds of issues. First of all these kids need to have a change of heart and that only comes with the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they need help with their drug habit. Their parents and the ministry need to repent of their past neglect and open their eyes and deal with these issues head on. Mark got quite heated about all of this. I hope I got down all of what he said.

    11. AmyJo

      Don – Thanks for sharing Mark’s thoughts and such. I look forward to hearing from you both in these posts!

      The sad reality is that for the past few/several years, meth and heroin have probably been the most abused illegal substances in rural IL. So, it is understandable how this could be a problem in rural OH also. Within the past year though, seems the pot ‘look-alikes’, K2, K4, ‘bath salts’, etc are gaining in use with even greater, swifter negative effects. About 2007, I spoke w a mgt staff person from a small rural Hosp which had a special ‘triage’ type program specifically for substance abuse. At that time she described a ‘typical’ admission (patient) – female, 12-16 years old, drug of choice: heroin; second most prevalent: male, 38-45, meth &/or alcohol. Mark is right about changing brain chemistry. It is heart-breaking to see. I know I am old but, seems the devastation happens more quickly and with greater intensity than a generation or two ago. While positive advances are happening at a ‘greater rate of speed’, so to speak, so is the deterioration. (Hmmm, seems I’ve heard this before)

      So,IMHO, love one another, foster genuine relationship (I believe this is central to helping others stay on the right path) and ‘be ye separate’

    12. kerry

      Northern Ohio Amish communities aren’t the only places in Ohio with this problem – Holmes and Wayne (and surrounding counties) are dealing with the same issues, between Amish and English alike who often “party” together. Part of the issue is so easily being able to manufacture or sell these things in the hidden rural areas, making it easily accessible. The local undercover drug task force officer, who spoke to my workplace recently said it’s a far more widespread problem than people realize.

      And AmyJo, yes, the officer said exactly what you have – they aren’t seeing as much heroin now but rather more of those things you mention, and the effects are just as devastating. So sad and disheartening.

    13. Drug & Alcohol Concerns for Ohio Amish

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