Task Force uses simple approach to portray stark reality

David Broyles

March 27, 2014

DOBSON — Members of the Surry County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force recently chose a personal, unvarnished way to tell their classmates about the deadly consequences of drug abuse.

According to Surry County Schools Director of Communications, Instructional Media and Teacher Quality Sonia Dickerson, the students made some straightforward style decisions to present the content of the assembly program which was performed in all four high schools in Surry County.

“We wanted this to be simple, bare facts to get across what we wanted to say,” said North Surry Junior Sydney Atkins as she talked about the program Wednesday where students took turns on the bare stage, walking out with black lettering on white signs accompanied by the narration of School Counselor Brittany Jeffries. School Nurse Anita Hull and National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse North Carolina Director Frankie Andrews also participated.

Jeffries reminded audience members the facts presented were “not just numbers but people.” She reminded them “one pill can kill” and told them many kids believe prescription drugs are safer to use to get high with than other drugs. Andrews’ presentation candidly talked about his two nephews, Matthew and Brandon, being killed by prescription drug abuse.

“They were just like you. They had hopes and dreams,” Andrews said. “Dependent on a drug means you have to take the medication. Addicted means you have to take more of the drug to get high.” He explained how Matthew became addicted to painkillers after he was prescribed Oxycontin to deal with a football injury, and how his addiction changed his entire personality. He told them Matthew struggled for seven years and had been clean for six months before he chose to go out one night with an old acquaintance and get high.

“The following morning (Aug. 22, 2006), his father went to wake him up and he was unresponsive,” Andrews said. Andrews said he tried to become proactive and raise awareness of the crisis but “doors were shut” on his efforts.

“I decided it couldn’t happen again to my family,” Andrews said. He recalled how his nephew, Brandon, was always smiling and mischievous and had advanced to the junior state championship in his eighth grade year and claimed the state title in his class in 2002 only to later fall victim to prescription drug abuse.

“The reality of this is every Christmas my sister goes to the cemetery and puts memorabilia of their favorite sports teams on the grave sites,” Andrews said. “Brandon’s pictures are etched in black granite. This past Sunday, was Brandon’s birthday. She took a cake there and ate it with her children. That’s the reality of what his bad choices did. Choices affect others as well. Somebody is following in your footsteps. I plead with you all in the coming days to make the right choices. What you do today can affect others.”

Hull told the students that 25 percent of students nationally said they have experimented with drugs (including prescription drugs) by the time they are seniors. She said that although the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population it takes 80 percent of the world’s painkillers. She called prescription drug abuse an epidemic no different than street drugs and reminded them sharing medications is illegal and possibly a felony and said current trends of mixing alcohol with prescription drugs makes the practice even more deadly.

Andrews and Hull reminded the students Surry County ranks fourth in the state in substance abuse related deaths with 90 percent of these deaths deemed accidental.

East Surry Sophomore Michela Cuppola said she felt the assembly would help because it was students communicating with their peers.

“I thought they were attentive. They listened,” said East Surry Junior Austin Haymore.

North Surry Sophomore Colten Hodges said his hope was to reach someone with the message and encourage a fellow student making a bad decision to get help. East Junior Jacob White said he felt they got the point across and this effort dovetailed nicely with previous awareness efforts such as Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse (PPD) bracelets and tee shirts.

East Surry Junior Jonathan Bobbitt frankly said statistics indicating one in five student ages 12-17 being involved in drug abuse made a powerful statement. He hadn’t realized some many could be involved with this across America.

“To realize 38,000 have died of an overdose (nationally). That’s a lot of people,” said Surry Central Freshman Jackson Gates. “I think maybe they’ll listen because we are people their age.” Surry Central Sophomore Salem Poindexter agreed with Jackson and said she felt Surry County ranking fourth in the state was a “huge statistic” coupled with the fact the county smaller than other areas. North Surry

Freshman Kaylee Freed shared many of the hopes of here fellow task force team members. She said the assembly should be views as part of an ongoing campaign including the shirts, bracelets. Freed indicated the group is always looking for better ways to get their point across and used more colorful posters this year, “posters that weren’t just a lot of words.”

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.