John Enrietto, sports editor of the Butler Eagle–Column from Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014
The statistics are staggering. Hearing them is like receiving a sudden slap in the face. It wakes you up. Forty-eight percent of all high school seniors will have at least tried an illicit drug by the time they graduate. Eleven percent of all eighth-graders have used marijuana in the past year. There are 7,898 new drug users every day in this country. More than half of them are under 18. Twenty-five percent of all teenagers have been offered or sold some type of drug in school. There’s more numbers out there, but you get the point.
We’re dealing with a crisis here that we need to be proactive about. Kudos to Karns City High School principal and head football coach Ed Conto, who was certainly proactive in bringing his entire team to a three-hour Reality Tour Drug Prevention program recently in Butler. Every coach of every high school sports team should do the same. It’s well worth the time. Parents and kids get educated about drug abuse at the same time. They see dramatic scenes that show the consequences of using drugs, whether it be a prison or death sentence. The program shows how some drugs are made and what some of their contents are.
It gives kids the opportunity to hear the stories of former drug abusers now in recovery, as well as hearing from a parent who saw his child die from drug abuse. When a team attends a program like this together, it bonds them together that much more. They will openly talk about the issue among themselves and have each other’s backs, just like they do on the field. Athletes are often looked upon as leaders in the school. Having those leaders educated about drug abuse can only help the general school population. Sports are often considered a microcosm of life.
Even pro athletes who have everything, their lives completely set up financially and in terms of prestige, can get tangled up in this stuff. Just a few days ago, Steeler running backs Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount were caught with marijuana in a vehicle — just two weeks before the start of the NFL season. Why? Are these guys really that foolish? Maybe they’re hooked on it. Marijuana is addictive, after all, and can lead to other drugs. It’s not called the “gateway drug” for nothing.
If a pro athlete with everything to lose is willing to do drugs, what’s to stop a junior high or high school kid from succumbing to peer pressure or his own curiosity? Knowing the dangers and consequences of it and having a bunch of teammates on his side wouldn’t hurt. The volunteers working these reality drug prevention tours deeply care about our youths. Coaches and school administrators should care enough to hear their message.