Resource center fights addictions

Meth, gambling targeted as rising problems in Indiana

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Apr. 27, 2005 


Although playing cards and gambling might seem harmless, they can be addictive. Even something as trivial as playing scratch-off lottery tickets and bingo can result in addictive behavior.

According to its Web site, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center was created in 1987 to help Indiana-based gambling, tobacco, alcohol and other drug prevention programs improve.

Barbara Seitz de Martinez, deputy director of the IPRC, said the center works to prevent people from getting involved in drugs.

"We do not offer treatment, but we want to support prevention and prevention practitioners across the state," she said.

The IPRC's primary programs aim to educate nonusers and people who are using experimentally. The IPRC is operated by the IU Department of Applied Health Science and the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The center's secondary programs educate and serve people at beginning stages of drug involvement, whose conditions are still reversible through intervention and education programs, according to the IPRC's Web site.

The latest trend in drugs is the rise of methamphetamines, which are highly addictive and strongly activate certain systems in the brain. The drug releases high levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates brain cells, enhancing body movement and mood levels. Methamphetamines also have a neurotoxic effect, which eventually damages brain cells. Over time, methamphetamines can result in symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease -- a person might experience tremors, slowed movement and speech. Methamphetamines are often referred to as "meth," "crystal" and "chalk," according to the Web site of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This trend is prevalent in Indiana.

For the first time, a survey asking school-aged children how often they use methamphetamines is being administered. More than 190,000 students in sixth through 12th grade are taking this survey, said Seitz de Martinez.

"This is the first time we are doing a survey on methamphetamines, so we're holding our breath about the results," Seitz de Martinez said.

Although methamphetamine users might experience increased energy, they might not realize the severe brain damage the use causes. Methamphetamines destroy brain cells, especially in younger children.

"Methamphetamines are serious neurotoxins with devastating impacts on youth," Seitz de Martinez said.

Another rising trend among Indiana youth is gambling abuse. In this case, "youth" is loosely defined as children to young adults. The center's mission to prevent gambling abuse, the Indiana Problem Gambling Prevention Initiative, has been in effect for a year, Seitz de Martinez said. The IPGPI works to prevent gambling by making professionals and practitioners available as resources of information. The IPGPI plans to collect resources and generate data reports to research this epidemic further.

Mary Ann Lay, a faculty member in the Department of Applied Health Science, defines gambling as "an act of risking something of value with an unknown outcome." Lay stressed that gambling people do not know if they will win or lose.

The IPGPI first noticed a rise in gambling among adults in Indiana within the last couple of years. IPGPI is still collecting data on this matter.

"We plan to raise awareness and show how gambling is a problem that affects families and the community," Lay said.

It's not the action of gambling that's the problem, it's the abuse of it that causes problems in people's lives.

"The problem is not gambling, it's abuse of gambling," Seitz de Martinez said.

Gambling and the abuse of it are becoming increasingly prevalent, she said. To begin combating this problem, a telephone survey was administered to children and adolescents in grades six through 12, according to the IPRC. The survey aimed to learn the gambling behavior of children and adolescents in that age group. The survey results will be available this fall.

"If you start gambling early, that could lead to problems later in life," Lay said. "Especially if someone starts smoking and drinking at an early age."

On the bright side, cigarette smoking and marijuana use has declined in Indiana.

"We've seen marvelous declines since the early- to mid-1990s peak. The decline into the new century has been in smoking cigarettes and marijuana for all grades," Seitz de Martinez said.

Despite the decline in cigarette smoking and marijuana use, there is still a lot of work to be done to combat addictive behavior in youth.

"Our main goal is to support prevention and prevention professionals," Seitz de Martinez said.

-- Contact Staff Writer Laila Hayat at


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