Holmes County Area Drug Parties Challenge Authorities

A recent article in the Massillon Independent depicts the efforts of law enforcement in Holmes and neighboring Tuscarawas County to thwart large parties held regularly in the area.

According to authorities, these parties, such as those held at a resort in Tuscarawas County, have a significant Amish youth presence. Drugs such as meth and cocaine are sold and used at them.

From the article:

Such parties are commonplace, according to Holmes County sheriff’s deputies.

“They’ve had these parties for years in our county,” said Sgt. Joe Mullet, of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department.

Mullet said partygoers have thrown rocks at sheriff’s cruisers and, one year, a group tried to overturn one of the department’s cars.

Campbell said he would like to see more dialogue between law enforcement and the Amish community.

So would Naomi Stutzman. Stutzman, 29, grew up in the Amish community but left when she was 18. Stutzman said she believes the Amish community can’t handle the drug issues on its own.

“There’s a lot of harder drugs amongst the Amish youth,” she said. “I witnessed that when I was doing my thing.”

Stutzman said she began attending drinking parties when she was 15. While her parents didn’t approve, Stutzman said it was something that “everybody did.”

She said the biggest issue was that, like many Amish parents, her parents didn’t discuss drugs and alcohol with her.

“I was so sheltered — when you get a breath of fresh air, and you decide you can break out or leave, you go psycho. You go crazy,” Stutzman said. “That’s the mistake I made.

“The fear of getting caught isn’t quite as strong as it is in the regular world, if that’s what you want to call it,” she added.

Two new books address youth and drug issues among the Amish.  We’ll be hearing from Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years author and friend of the site Richard Stevick soon.

A second book due out later this year, Serving the Amish: A Cultural Guide for Professionalsby clinical psychologist and Amish Youth Vision Project co-director James Cates, covers youth issues within its wide scope.

While it’s hard to take the current crop of reality shows portraying wild Amish behavior as representative, the fact is that some Amish youth get into things they might be ashamed to admit to 10 years down the road.

As suggested by Naomi Stutzman, Amish parents don’t approve, but may not be proactive in addressing substance abuse (though Geauga County Amish, at least, have met with authorities to tackle drug issues recently).

Just how many Amish youth and young adults are involved?

According to the article, “nearly 1,500 young adults and teenagers — many of them Amish” come to participate in the parties.

If these are like other large organized Amish-attended parties, this likely includes partygoers from other communities and states.

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    1. Annette

      I remember 20 years ago, talking with some of my Amish friends about the drug parties in Holmes County. I was stunned. Of course, I was very young; not much surprises me anymore.

    2. SharonR

      Holmes Co area Drug Parties

      I’m not surprised at this news…..drugs and alcohol are everywhere in our culture these days, and have been for a long time. It might take more serious parental involvement, on better teaching of the dangers of these evils, to the children.

      I think the Amish have the same issues with teens as other non-Amish do, and I think we have a different perception of the Amish, thinking they are immune from the outside world “evils”. They are not — they are human, too and have to be strong in their beliefs, to avoid the evil ways of our modern society.

    3. Rich Stevick

      The Wild Rumspringa

      These parties occur much more frequently in the larger settlements, e.g., Lancaster, Holmes-Wayne-Stark, Northern Indiana, and Geauga, OH, for example. However, the situation is much more layered than this article indicates. For example, Lancaster County, PA, changed significantly from the party scene after the 1998 F.B.I. drug bust of three Amish-reared youngie selling drugs to teenagers in some of the wildest Amish youth groups. Today, all–yes I said “all”–Lancaster Amish adults say that things are much different/better from when they and their parents were young. This is a direct result of the advent of the supervised youth group movement, borrowed from the Midway group movement in Holmes County. Also the New Order Amish movement and their influence has also reduced the wild-rumspringa scene for many youth in the Holmes County area. Of course, a significant minority of youth still party during their rumspringa years, but most Amish today believe that heavy partiers are indeed the minority. So I feel confident in saying that despite the media coverage and films like “Devil’s Playground,” the wild rumspringa is not the norm throughout the Amish world. I look forward to learning more from your comments and experiences. Rich Stevick

    4. Very interesting article, Erik. I hope you will keep us posted on the availability of the resources you mentioned.

    5. Naomi Wilson

      @ Rick

      Thank you for your comment. That is good to hear. I was listening to a talk by a New Order Amish man at the Anabaptist Identity Conference, who said that the new birth (“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3) was returning to the larger Amish communities. My understanding is that the importance of the new birth was de-emphasized among the Amish for a period of about a hundred years, but these communities are experiencing something of a spiritual revival. Do you address the issue from a spiritual point of view in your upcoming book?

      Thank you!

      1. Rich Stevick

        Trying again

        Naomi, I do deal fairly extensively with Amish spirituality and expression in a chapter in Growing Up Amish:The Rumspringa Years. I also compare and contrast the Old Orders and New Orders in these areas. I have not heard the term “spiritual revival” among the Amish in recent years, but most Amish adults I know say that the moral and spiritual climate among many of the youth is much better than when these adults were young. BTW, the best book on the subject is The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World by Donald Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher. I highly recommend it for the insights of the authors. Rich

        1. Naomi Wilson
      2. Valerie

        Changes in Amish-New Birth

        Naomi, thank you (which you probably won’t even see this comment) but I read a book called “True Christianity” by an Amish bishop who lived between 1786-1871. In his book, he has a whole chapter on John 3 and the new birth. Yet I always here my former Amish friends/onliners claim they were never taught about the new birth or being Born Again- so I realized something must have changed AFTER this bishop’s time-because he sure did explain it well.
        Wonder what happened for that hundered years it was kind of dropped- hm.
        I’m glad I saw this as I was thinking something had to have changed & your comment is a missing piece to the puzzle- yes there is some revival of some kind going on-

        1. Amanda


          Who is the author Of the book you mentioned. I would like to read it.

    6. Pilgrim

      Recently talked with a young Amish boy,who was at a large all night beer party in Ohio,,and he told me that He does not like going to them,but wants to be accepted by his friends.

      1. Naomi Wilson

        Hmmm, sounds exactly like college…

    7. Alice Mary

      The (lifelong resident) tour guide from the Shipshewana/Middlebury area of Indiana I met last year while on a tour there, said meth was getting to be a bigger & bigger problem in that area in recent years. She said Amish parents are bending rules in other ways to appease kids in the hope that they won’t get into drugs. (One example was that the father of a Rumspringa-age daughter we met who was running her Dad’s shop, “looked the other way” when she dyed her blonde hair black.)

      Alice Mary

    8. Janet Lance

      Sad but Amish teens face the same problems with drug and alcohol as English kids. I am from Washington county Maine and years ago pills and alcohol seems to be our biggest issues. I would think that Amish teens would have a bigger shock to their system seeing that they lead a much more sheltered life before drugs and alcohol are introduced into their lives.

    9. Al in Ky

      This is sad news and I hope and pray the parents and ministry in the areas where this is happening will cooperate with law authorities and health departments when needed to address the problem. I appreciated Rich Stevick’s comments and am looking forward to reading his book on Rumspringa.

      1. Janet Lance

        About Rumspringa

        There is a documentary about Rumspringa called
        “Devil’s Playground”
        A very interesting documentary.

    10. Mayzin

      Evil influences everywhere

      What is sadder still is that there are those among the English who are not happy unless they are leading the “backward” cultures who do not believe in alcohol, fornication, covetousness, etc. astray.

      I’m not Amish, but to all you our there who think you are saving the Amish, other conservative Christians, Jews and Muslims from themselves by providing them with all kinds of temptations of the flesh – you will ultimately be the loser. God is watching all that you do.

    11. Jennifer

      On a slightly separate but related topic… I was wondering if Amish youth are told the dangers of HIV/AIDs and other sexual diseases?