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The Metrowest Daily News
By Brad Petrishen

Ranging from the mildly gross to the disturbingly grotesque, the images of drugged-out inmates and celebrities that flashed across the screen were hard to forget.

Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis hopes the message he gave to students yesterday at Assabet Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School also won’t soon be forgotten.

“Out of 1,200 people sitting (in jail) up on that hill in West Boylston, 1,100 have drug and alcohol problems,” Evangelidis told students.

He said many of them began abusing substances back in high school, and urged students to think hard about their mortality and not “blow” the one shot at life they have.

Called Face2Face, Evandelidis’ program combines a presentation on the dangers of drug abuse with images of how faces change along the way, culminating by using special technology to show students what a few of their classmates or teachers might begin to look like if they became users.

“You don’t have the right to a toilet seat. You don’t have the right to a towel. You don’t have the right to eat what you want. That’s life in prison,” Evangelidis told students, allowing a few to feel the coarse fibers of a prison outfit for added effect.

Evangelidis appealed to the students’ vanity, showing them the images of Hollywood heartthrobs and even a few pinup models whose appearances were destroyed by drug abuse.

“This guy’s got some problems,” Evangelidis said as Charlie Sheen’s mug shots appeared on the screen. He next played an interesting time-lapse shot of trouble actress Lindsay Lohan from childhood to adulthood.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s on the first page soon,” Evangelidis said, drawing some laughs when he admitted he’d seen her movie “Mean Girls” “at least 15 times.”

Evangelidis spoke for some time about myths regarding drugs, with particular focus on the myth that prescription drugs are OK to use because they are prescribed by a doctor.

“You’re growing up in an epidemic of prescription drug (abuse),” he said, which is why the latest generation is sometimes labeled “generation Rx.”

Evangelidis urged teens to resist peer pressure to take any sort of drug, saying that once a person gets high, it’s not something that can be taken back.

“Once you get high, it just changes everything,” Evangelidis said, and can send one spiraling down a path to harder drugs.

Evangelidis used the story of 1986 first-round Celtics draft pick Len Bias as a warning about how trying a hard drug once can be fatal.

Bias died after using cocaine with friends the night after the draft. For many years it was believed he had never tried the drug before, although that notion has recently been challenged.

“That’s why you’ve never heard of a guy named Lenny Bias,” he said to students, most of whom had never heard of the former college standout.

Students seemed affected by Evangelidis’ words — they recoiled in horror at photos of meth addicts’ yellowed and blackened teeth — and the sheriff said he’s pleased with the feedback he’s received so far.

“Young people have come up to me to share their stories,” he said, including one girl yesterday who fought back tears while talking to him following the presentation.

“What (she) just shared with me was incredibly moving, and shows how strong she is,” he said. “I feel that as sheriff, I’m the most logical person to be doing this program, because I see the end result (of drug use).”

Evangelidis said the program is almost done for this year but will start up again next fall. He said he agreed to come to Marlborough since some of its member towns are under his jurisdiction.