By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
Drug access for young people is much worse in Grove City and elsewhere than what parents see.
"Parents are the No. 1 drug dealers and they don't even realize it," said Chris Taggart, Grove City policeman, referring to prescription drugs in the home.
"Kids think, 'They're prescription, my parents take it, it's safe,'" he said.
Taggart was among a number of speakers at a recent private viewing of Reality Tour at Grove City Medical Center -- an interactive, multi-media evening that depicts the dangers and consequences of drugs and alcohol consumption among young people.
Grove City Rotary Club purchased the license for Reality Tour, created by Norma Norris, a Butler area resident, in response to the area's heroin epidemic. Rotarians will host Reality Tour each month at the Pine Township hospital; the first official viewing will be 6 to 9 p.m. March 18.
Sixth-graders in Grove City schools will be targeted, because 7th grade is when substances are often introduced; however, Reality Tour is open to ages 10 to 18. A parent or guardian must attend with the young person since it's meant to start a dialog in the home to deter youth from substance abuse.
Last week's dress rehearsal began with a skit of a teen girl getting arrested for drugs, with Taggart and Grove City policeman Max Whittlinger in uniform as part of the sketch. Students from the high school and college, as well as Rotary and community members, volunteer for the program.
Half of the viewers stayed in the conference room to watch a graphic and harrowing DVD called "Dying High" about real teens treated in an emergency room for overdoses and vehicular accidents due to substance abuse, while the other half went into a separate room that picks up the drama of the teen who ends up hospitalized and dead. The groups then exchanged places.
Throughout the evening Rotary member Chet Leech - who also runs Davis Archway in Butler County, which is an inpatient drug and alcohol program for men - led participants in filling out questionnaires about important statistics regarding substances and teen addiction.
Parents usually learn about their child's substance abuse when he or she has been using for two years and is hooked, he said.
A memorable part of the evening came from a talk by three residents of George Junior Republic, Pine Township, where they are serving time and/or staying clean. GJR is a facility for court-adjudicated youth who are in trouble or need a safer place to grow up than home.
Sky, Mike and Trevor, 18, 17 and 18, respectively, began their journeys of drug/alcohol use as young as 8th grade. Trevor started smoking marijuana because of his girlfriend; otherwise, "I never wanted to try it," he said.
That took him on a path of "experimenting with many drugs" and an addiction to K-2, a type of marijuana that "I smoked religiously," he said. "I went to many placement centers. (For one), I lived in the woods for a month, but it didn't do anything for me."
On a recent, six-day pass to visit home, Trevor found that all of his friends had graduated to using heroin, with two having overdosed already; one of them briefly "dying in back of the ambulance," he said.
Trevor is from a wealthy neighborhood in Doylestown, Pa. and would like to be an underwater welder.
Sky's father is a recovering alcoholic and his mother is an addict, he said. At 15, he started using marijuana, which led to a life of crime to support his habit.
After being caught, arrested and put on probation, "I didn't care and kept using. It was pretty bad and I was committing a lot of crimes," he said. "I've seen so many people die and get arrested but it still didn't change my mind."
Sky's been at GJR for 10 months. It pains him to see his 17-year-old brother following in his footsteps. "Every time I go home, I tell him what will happen to him," he said.
He admits that his release from GJR will be hard. Seeing his brother's eyes red from being high "triggers me to want to use in some ways," he said. "It's going to be very difficult to say 'no' to my brother and friends. It will take a lot of morality and will."
Sky is an accomplished pianist from the Philadelphia area, and would like a career in music production.
Mike "grew up around alcohol and didn't want to drink," he said, so instead he smoked marijuana daily "and ate pills at 14." By 15, he started buying 90 Percocets at a time, ingesting up to 10 of them a day and selling the rest.
He feels responsible for the death of his best friend with whom he did drugs. Mike overdosed twice, which he believed he did "on purpose" because of his shame, he said. He eventually started snorting and shooting up heroin, then became an alcoholic.
When he's on leave from GJR, "The first hour I'm home all my friends are texting to go out and get alcohol," he said. He knows he has to cut them out of his life, which will be difficult.
Mike, from East Liverpool, Ohio, has been 20 months clean of heroin and six months clean of alcohol. He would like to be a substance abuse counselor.
Mike, Trevor and Sky said their desire for drugs and alcohol was influenced by the entertainment industry - especially movies and rap music.
"It's a big part of the drug habit to listen to rap. It got you in the mood," Sky added.
"Movies definitely influence a lot of kids," Trevor said. "Unfortunately media and music has a very big impact on youth," said Sky, who has been to a number of raves and parties similar to the one depicted in the recent, popular teen movie, "Project X."
Some favorite party games for teens is raiding medicine cabinets at home, and bringing the drugs to a party. Everyone throws all the drugs into one bowl and then ingests a handful of whatever unknown pills are there.
"A lot of kids overdose this way," Taggart stated.
The "Dying High" video said more teens go to the emergency room for complications from using marijuana than heroin. Binge drinking is another problem with young people, since they are not aware the effects of alcohol will hit them suddenly.
Many can end up in a coma or choke on their own vomit, as the body tries to get rid of the poison, but they are too intoxicated to help themselves.
Whittlinger said people only need to "read the paper" to see the number of late-night vehicle thefts reported, which are generally by young people wanting to find drug money. He implored people to lock their car doors and take their valuables in the house.
Also, don't be afraid to call 911 as soon as suspicious activity is witnessed, no matter how late. "A business was shot into on Broad Street and someone saw it and didn't call. They didn't think it was an emergency," Taggart said, and the shooter was never caught.
People can also choose to remain anonymous, he added.
Grove City "has everything every city has but less of it," Taggart said. The force knows repeat offenders and know of 25 to 30 individuals who drive to New Castle daily to bring drugs back to Grove City, he noted.
"Parents don't want to hear their kids are fighting or they're on drugs," Taggart said. "I've had 30-year-olds whose parents get upset at me if I arrest them."
Molly Bengs, 17, a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions, was volunteering for the opening night. Using substances is "a touchy subject" at Grove City High School, because people don't want to be judged, she said.
Bengs is trying to do her part, however, because "I just want to help people realize that drugs are a problem and we have to do something about it."
Those interested in the viewing Reality Tour on March 18 may visit www.grovecityrotaryclub.org, to register. There are 60 spots available (30 students/30 parents or guardian). Others tours are scheduled for April 15, May 20 and then the second Thursday of every month. Cost is $5.
Published March 6, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.