Substance use and abuse continues to be a problem among teens in Brown County, and with summer break from school just around the corner, students will have plenty of idle time on their hands. It’s during these free times when teens are more likely to experiment with illegal drug use, and those working to fight the drug problem in the county are hoping to stop drug addiction among teens before it starts.
Brown County Juvenile Court Judge Danny Bubp, along with his team of speakers, paid a visit to Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington High School on the afternoon of May 16 to address students on in the issues of drug abuse and addiction, encouraging students to make good decisions in their lives and to steer clear of recreational drug use.
“What we’re trying to do is expose these kids to the dangers with illegal drug use,” said Bubp. “One of the (RULH) students I spoke with, who is a senior, told me that she bet if I drug tested all of them (students) right now, over 50-percent would have marijuana in them. How do you focus on your education? How do you focus on goals if you’re using a drug like marijuana? People will advocate for it (marijuana) – saying that it is harmless, but if you talk to these guys in law enforcement they will tell you from the facts that it’s not harmless.”
RULH students and staff welcomed guest speaker and former teen body-building sensation, Franco Santoriello. Santoriello was once among the top teen body builder in the world, an impressive career that was destroyed by his heroin addiction. His path of substance abuse and addiction began like many others, with smoking marijuana and consuming alcohol.
“At your age I was the best teenage body builder on earth,” Santoriello told RULH students during his visit. “I never thought I would become an addict, and it started with pot and beer.”
“Drugs and alcohol took everything I was and everything I stood for,” he later added.
Santoriello’s bout with addiction led him to nearly three years in prison on drug related charges, and it was there that he decided to change his life. Relying on his faith in God and his desire to overcome addiction, he is now drug free and has chosen to share his story. On Monday, RULH students had several questions for Santoriello after hearing his story.
“I called out to a power higher than myself,” he said to the students. “The reason I have a good life today is because I put that (party life) behind me.”
“Drugs kills,” said Santoriello, who claimed drugs caused him to die twice before overcoming he was able to overcome his addiction.
Other speakers included Brown County Sheriff Elect Gordon Ellis. Ellis gave students a law enforcement perspective on the drug problem among teens.
“Right now, heroin kills more people in the United States than traffic accidents,” said Ellis.
“Addicts will tell you they will forego food and they will forego anything else to get their heroin,” Ellis explained to the students.
According to Ellis, throughout his 30-year career in law enforcement he has not ran into one addict who did not start out by using marijuana.
Also addressing RULH High School students with Bubp’s team of speakers were Andy Baughe, Investigator with Brown County Jobs and Family Services; and Jill Light, counselor with Child Focus who works two days a week in the RULH School District.
Bubp and his group of speakers will continue their visits to schools in Brown County, promoting the same message in encouraging students to make wise choices in their lives and avoid drug abuse.