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The Athol Daily News
By Jared Robinson

ATHOL — Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis brought his “Face2Face” drug and alcohol prevention and education program to the Athol-Royalston Middle School Wednesday.

Funded by donations from local businesses and individuals, including Athol selectperson Susannah Lee and her mother, Pauline Whipps, Evangelidis is the only sheriff in the country utilizing the program to educate middle and high school-age kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Using a state of the art three-dimensional camera and software, the Face2Face program allows kids to see what they would look like after continued abuse of drugs and alcohol.

When researching new ways to educate youth to the dangers of drugs and alcohol Evangelidis looked to his own family. As a father, he knows first hand how concerned teenagers are with their appearance and, along with the computerized projection offered, the presentation also includes real-life photos of how drugs and alcohol effect someone’s outward appearance overtime. The use of graphic images like the close up of someone with “meth-mouth” help to drive the point home.

Throughout much of his presentation, Evangelidis displays a taped recording of life inside of the Worcester County jail. As 90 percent of the inmates are there because of drug related crimes, Evangelidis shows how, in a video of an inmate juggling an orange, that inmates are forced to live in rooms only 8-feet by 10-feet wide containing only a toilet (without a toilet seat) and a sink (without paper towels to dry with). “See him flipping that orange?” Evangelidis asked, “That will probably be the highlight of his day.” The purpose of the video is to show how someone loses all freedoms when they go to jail, only being let out for an hour or two per day.

Evangelidis also shows celebrities that all died as a result of drug and alcohol abuse and a display of other celebrities still living that we should be concerned about, including Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan. In regards to Lohan, Evangelidis said that because of his daughters, he has seen the movie “Mean Girls” about 10 times. He also does not fail mention that until three weeks ago Whitney Huston was on the list of those he was concerned about, and has since been moved to the list of those who have died. The presentation also includes a short documentary on the death of Leonard Bias, who died as the result of a cocaine overdose in 1986, shortly after signing with the Boston Celtics. He is considered by many to be the best basketball player to never reach the NBA and died after trying cocaine only once. The purpose being to dispel the myth that trying drugs once can not lead to harm.

A taped interview with rapper Eminem is also shown where he describes the steps he had to take to beat his own addiction.

Much of Face2Face focuses on prescription pill abuse. As today’s kids have come to be called “Generation Rx,” the presentation shows news clips with relatives of kids who have died or been left with brain damage as a result of prescription pill abuse. Evangelidis warns that, unless taken under the supervision of a doctor, prescription pills can be very dangerous and addictive.

Not to be missed is the newest designer drug “Bath Salts,” which until recently could be sold in some stores. Because of it’s innocent name many kids are able to hide the drug in plain sight as it comes in a seemingly innocuous round tin but contains chemicals similar to that of ecstasy. Hospitalizations as a result of Bath Salt use is on the rise as it causes a sharp increase in blood pressure and hallucinations. Most of the side effects are not even known yet Evangelidis said.

Evangelidis has presented Face2Face to over 40 schools so far in his quest to bring the presentation to every school district in Worcester County and he hopes it will make kids think twice before trying drugs and alcohol.