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The Barre Gazette
By Ellenor Downer

Ninth and tenth graders at Quabbin Regional High School learned that there is truth to the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis (R-Holden) was at the high school last Thursday to present his Face2Face program. He stated that the Worcester County House of Correction has about 1,200 male inmates. Over 90 percent of them ended up in jail because of bad choices they made that involved drugs and/or alcohol while in high school. People that go to jail cannot get a decent job or join the military. He told the students that prisoners live in an 8′ by 10′ cell, wear a uniform and lose all rights to privacy.

William Thibeault, a Quabbin graduate and the sheriff’s department technical support person, designed the slide show. The presentation begins with a videotape of a prisoner in his cell. Then a collage of photos of celebrities including Jim Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston and others appeared on the screen. All of these people died from drug and alcohol overdoses. The next slide showed their ages when they died and most were in their 20’s or 30’s.

The slideshow showed Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan in the “Here today, gone tomorrow” category. The sheriff explained that it wasn’t too long ago that Whitney Houston was listed here.

Photos of Sheen when he appeared in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Spin City” filled one side of the screen and the opposite showed police arrest photos. The decline in his appearance was evident. It listed his drugs of choice as alcohol and cocaine. Lindsey Lohan flashed on the screen next. Again, photos of her in “Parent Trap” and “Freaky Friday” revealed marked changes in her looks. It listed drugs of choice as alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamines.

A collage of Lohan flashed photos of her from a cute baby, young girl and teen to current photos of her. Due to the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, she appeared much older then her 25 years.

Evangelidis also covered myths and facts concerning drugs and alcohol. The first myth mentioned was “marijuana is safe because it is natural and from the earth.” He said that statement is true of other drugs like cocaine and heroin. He showed clips from several marijuana users. One said it was a “gateway” drug and another stated, “Once you get high, it just changes everything.” Other myths discussed included: taking painkillers to get high is safe because a doctor prescribed it, I won’t get hooked – I can quit anytime I want, using drugs and alcohol makes depression go away, taking pills is not as bad as using a needle and not all drugs effect the brain in a bad way.

He told the story of Lenny Bias, a first draft pick to play for the Boston Celtics. He never used drugs while playing basketball for the University of Maryland, but the evening he got selected to play in Boston, friend convinced him to celebrate by doing cocaine.

That one time proved fatal as his heart stopped. Students listened to an interview with rapper Eminem about his drug problem, his near death overdose and rehab.

Students watched a video clip about Jeremiah, an 18 year old, who overdosed on a combination of drugs while with friends. His “friends” delayed several hours before calling for help even though they heard him gurgling. The incident left him in a vegetative state with his parents caring for all his needs.

Other slides compared pictures of a healthy liver and a cirrhotic one and a normal brain and drug or alcohol damaged one. Pictures showed blotchy skin, “meth” mouth and cocaine damage to the nose and palate. The audience also looked at before and after photos of people when they started drugs and few years later.