Drugs erase dreams

“Drugs erase dreams.”

Simple sentence. Simple concept. Sadly, so true.

Drug abuse is a horrific problem across the country and, yes, even here in Atmore.

To raise awareness, several groups have come together to present a program – Drugs Erase Dreams – being presented in high schools across the county. They draw on the expertise of people who are in the fight to save people from losing their dreams or their lives. And the people in the fight all say the same thing – “If we can save just one.”


Judge Dave Jordan

The program was held at Escambia County High School Thursday, October 23. Speakers were Drug Court and retired Circuit Court Judge Brad Byrne, Circuit Court Judge Dave Jordan, Drug Task Force Agent Scott Walden, Court Reporter and Drug Court Director Denise Carlee.

Judge Bradley Byrne told of a newspaper article about a mother whose son had died from a drug overdose. “No one talked about it,” the mother was quoted as saying.

“That’s what we’re going to do,” Judge Byrne said. “We’re going to talk about it.”

And, yes, he said, drugs are a problem here. “We’re no different from any other city or county.”

In the 1980s, drug cases accounted for about 40 percent of the court docket. Now, the judge said, drug cases comprise 80 percent or more of the cases.

Another startling statistic – Deaths from drug overdoses now exceed deaths from traffic accidents. Even if a user doesn’t die from an overdose, his/her quality of life suffers.

Prevention is the key and, according to Judge Byrne, one of the most important elements in prevention is “caring, loving, involved parents.”

“Our purpose tonight is clear – to inform, to help you,” he said. “Each person, each teenager has to make decisions.”

Judge Dave Jordan said he has seen the impact drug abuse has on the people in court, but also on their families.

“Knowledge is power,” he said. “Parents need to know why [kids] begin taking drugs.”

Judge Jordan made the following points:

* Addiction can change the anatomy of the brain.

* People say, “We don’t have that in Atmore.” But we do have that in Atmore, Judge Jordan said.

* Drugs are an equal opportunity destroyer.

* Now, there are many more families involved.

* The game has changed. Drugs are accessible, even in rural areas.

* There is increased abuse of prescription drugs.

* There are more man-made substances now, such as meth and Spice.

Judge Jordan gave the following warning signs.

* Withdrawal from activities

* Change in friends

* Change in schoolwork

* Missing school

* Demand for privacy. “It’s your house,” Judge Jordan said, urging parents to exercise their authority.

* Using coded language in conversations with friends

* Changes in clothing

* Greater need for money all of a sudden

* Increased use of mouthwash and breath mints

* Prescription drugs missing in the home

* Burn marks on the ends of his/her fingers

* Change in choice of music

If you see some or all of these warning signs, what do you do? The judge made the following suggestions.

* Talk with juvenile court officers – not about pressing charges, but about information

* Talk with someone at church

* Get information. Arm yourself as parents.

One of the most dramatic and striking statements Judge Jordan made was this: “The power of addiction is more powerful than the maternal instinct.” He has seen it in court.

Agent Scott Walden said with the advent of more harmful and even lethal drugs, some might think marijuana is fairly harmless. Think again.

“You may think marijuana now is not that bad, but it is,” he said. “Now, some marijuana has embalming fluid in it. Even rat poison.”

If you think you don’t need to talk to your young children about drugs, consider this.

“Drug dealers cut the center out of gum, put drugs in it, and give it to a nine-year-old. If he gets high, the dealer’s got a good drug. If he dies, it’s not a good drug.”

Walden said parents need to get involved in their kids’ lives. He and other officers pick children up late at night and take them home, and the parents say, “Oh, he must have snuck out when I was asleep.”

He said he was tired of hearing excuses from young people when drugs are found on them – “These are not my pants. They’re my friend’s pants.” You can insert any article of clothing there and Walden has heard it before – shoes, shirts, even underwear.

He admonished young people to take responsibility for themselves. And he admonished parents to take responsibility for their children.

“Parents, if we’re slack on our kids, they’ll be slack with our grandkids,” Walden said. “…Parents, you have a right to look in your kids’ room, no matter if they’re 18 or 19.”

Walden is one of the agents and officers on the street, and he sees the effect of drug addiction – and how low people will stoop.

“I’ve seen mothers trade their daughters for a little bit of dope,” Walden said. “And that’s here in Atmore.”

Denise Carlee has a passion for drug addicts. Her brother is a recovering addict and has founded New Beginnings Ministries to help others who are recovering. Carlee has seen first-hand the effects of drug addiction.

“For every bad behavior, there is a consequence,” she said.

Carlee discussed several drugs, their street names, and effects, including salvia, Spice, bath salts (abuse can cause brain damage or death), Yaba / Shabu (the next heroin, deadlier than meth), marijuana (laced with many other substances), alcohol (now scientific evidence that alcohol is a gateway drug), Ecstasy (92 percent of those using Ecstasy turn to other drugs), cocaine, crack, crystal meth, inhalants, heroin, LSD, prescription drugs, Ritalin abuse (Ritalin is also called kid cocaine), lip balm marijuana or wax (new marijuana product that looks like lip balm), caffeine powder (1 teaspoon is equal to 25 cups of coffee), N-bomb, Cheeba Chews, Krokodil (a flesh-eating drug, cheap heroin substitute, is present in Escambia County).

Ever heard of a pharm party? Everyone attending brings whatever kind of pills they can get. All the pills are dumped in one container. Each person at the party gets a handful and swallows the pills. They don’t know what they’re taking or how much or in what combination. And, according to Carlee, it’s happening in our county.

“Parents, if you suspect your child is using, get help immediately,” Carlee said. “It is not going to go away … For every one person addicted, 25 people are affected. If you know your parents are using or your children are using, take a stand. Hold them accountable.”

Also participating in the program were the Rev. Don Davis, Atmore First Assembly; Buck Powell, Atmore Lions Club, past Superintendent of Education; and Patty Helton Davis, Atmore Lions Club. Also present was Ruth Harrell, Flomaton Lions Club, Coalition for Healthier Escambia County.

Drugs Erase Dreams is sponsored by Escambia County Children’s Policy Council, Coalition for Healthier Escambia County, and the Escambia County Superintendent of Education. It is co-sponsored by Lions Club of Escambia County (Atmore, Flomaton and Brewton), Escambia County Drug Court, Escambia County Family Drug Court, Escambia County Drug Task Force, Escambia County Healthcare Authority, Escambia County Schools, Pepsi Cola of Atmore, Poarch Creek Indians, and New Beginnings Ministries.

- See more at: http://www.atmorenews.com/2014/10/29/drugs-erase-dreams-2/#sthash.C1xXPB3O.dpuf