POINT PLEASANT — Gay people are everywhere, even in Point Pleasant.
This week, the Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition went through training on how to be understanding of gay people with substance abuse issues. Tim White, regional prevention coordinator with Prestera Center, gave the presentation and stressed, repeatedly, the presentation was not about approving of homosexuality but understanding people who happen to be gay who also have substance abuse problems.
Those attending the meeting were brought up to speed on terminology in the gay community, also referred to as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community. Terms discussed, besides LGBT and the new Q (Questioning) were Drag Queen, Drag King, Lipstick Lesbian, Butch Lesbian, FTM (female to male), Genderqueer, etc. White said while some of the terms he covered were used within the LGBT community by those who are gay, for those who aren’t gay to use them is considered derogatory.
Then, White spoke about certain stressors unique to the gay community which might exacerbate addiction for those who suffer with it. Stressors include the coming out process (telling friends, family, coworkers about being gay) or being secretive about sexuality. This secrecy could be because of fear of retribution or ostracizing due to intolerance. White pointed out secrecy is never conducive to recovery for addicts.
White then went through a list of substance abuse patterns, and drugs, he said where unique to addicts who also happen to be gay. Of course, it should be noted not all gay people have substance abuse issues just as not all straight people have them. Again, the presentation was to promote understanding of different members of society and how to help those who need help with substance abuse issues.
As White put it, to think there aren’t gay people within the community is to put one’s head in the sand. He pointed out the latest census statistics that said 2.8 percent of the population in West Virginia reported they lived with an “unmarried partner” - a percentage rate slightly higher than that in California.
As the discussion wrapped up, one person at the meeting pointed out if anyone had a personal problem with someone being gay, they had an obligation to step aside and allow another member of the coalition who didn’t have a problem with it, to help that person.
Also discussed at the meeting:
White talked about other drug trends, including addicts stealing Fentanyl patches from cancer patients. He said the sale of synthetic cocaine, sold as bath salts, was also alarming, considering the chemical in the salts is 10 times more powerful than real cocaine. White was joined in his conversation about synthetic drugs by Cpl. B.L. Keefer of the West Virginia State Police. These drugs, which include synthetic marijuana, are often not included on random drug tests/screens which makes them popular for addicts who are employed at places that do drug testing.
White also talked about the explosion in methamphetamine production, saying it was now cheaper for addicts to make meth as opposed to getting high off Oxycontin pills which were selling anywhere from $80-$150 each.
The Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition announced it has been approved for funding for another year. The group recently purchased a laptop and projector for presentations, copies of the film “Appalachian Dawn” for local libraries and many more educational materials for all local schools.
Coalition members also discussed joining with Pleasant Valley Hospital to give out incentives to promote drug and alcohol abuse awareness at PVH’s booth at the Mason County Fair.
Another accomplishment that has come from the group is helping to establish two chapters of the Loved Ones Support Group in Mason County for families of addicts. The groups meet at 6 p.m., every Thursday at Main Street Baptist Church in Point Pleasant and Soul Harvest Church in Mason. There are currently plans to possibly start a chapter in the southern end of the county as well.
The next coalition meeting is at 5:30 p.m., July 19 with location to be announced.