Vaughn, Healing Hearts offering support to addicts, their families

By Michael Howlett

July 19, 2014

Darlene Vaughn, a substance abuse counselor with the Mount Rogers Community Service Board, called drug addiction in the Twin County area a “pandemic” following a meeting of the Hillsville Presbyterian Church’s Healing Hearts, a support group for those who have children and/or grandchildren struggling with substance abuse and addiction issues

Vaughn, who serves three clinics in five counties and the City of Galax, pointed to several factors as the cause for the increased use of drugs, mainly methamphetamine, but labeled the poor economy of our region as the main factor.

“We used to have a flourishing economy, to a degree, but now we don’t have that same kind of economic support,” she said. “The economy, not just locally but also nationally, has played a major role in this problem.”

Vaughan related a conversation with a 16–year-old she is counseling.

“He said it was much easier to drive down Low Gap Mountain to Greensboro at 2 a.m. and come back at 5 p.m. with $750 than work at McDonald’s. It’s much more profitable.”

Although having I-77 nearby is a benefit for area businesses, it is also a benefit for those transporting drugs.

“We’re a pipeline for the transportation of drugs, from New England all the way to Miami. There’s a lot of drugs being transported; they’re a huge, huge revenue all over the country,” said Vaughn.

Pop culture also plays a part in the drug problem, especially with the “glorification of drugs” and the marginalizing of women in some forms of music. Young people watch movies or videos or listen to music that boast of an extravagant lifestyle, and they think they should be able to live that same lifestyle.

“Kids have a sense of entitlement,” noted Vaughn.

This type of thinking is truly dangerous, since the median age of her patients is 15, she added.

“At that age, kids are at a point of brain plasticity where they’re developing executive thought. We’re being impacted by a bunch of kids who won’t have an analytical thought by the age of 30.”

Vaughn added that attempts to change young people’s attitudes require more than just a catch phrase.

“’Just Say No’ doesn’t work. You can’t place a moral opinion on a medical condition,” she said.

Then there is the heritage of our region to overcome.

“Appalachia is a very apathetic society to start with, and that thread of our culture has not changed in generations. That kind of dynamic is present in 20-year-olds, not just teens. We need a lot of change at a base social level.”

Healing Hearts meets the second Thursday of each month – the next meeting is Aug. 14 – at 7 p.m. the Hillsville Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The group seeks to provide care, community, resources and support for those affected by such issues. There is no charge and the meeting is open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, call 728-2722 or email

Michael Howlett can be reached at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter @MikeEHowlett