School officials confront drug problem

Addie Conway

Since the beginning of the year, a drug has been making the rounds throughout Webster. It’s now cheaper, in more forms and is dangerous to everyone. Its name? Heroin.

The Parkway video was a Fox News video shown in all classes to all students about a senior who went to a Parkway school and who ended up becoming addicted to heroin, even going as far as to get arrested for stealing, in order to get money to buy heroin.

“This is a district wide goal. Sixth, seventh and eighth grade parents were also informed of the Parkway video. People are dying from this drug. Country wide, it’s a problem. In most cases, people get addicted,” said principal Dr. Jon Clark. “We want information. We’re both worried and scared. Even one student addicted to heroin is too many.”

Webster has recently developed a Wellness Program, intended to promote health, improve student performances and increase awareness of safe and healthy lifestyles. This includes dealing with substance abuse that includes not just drugs like marijuana or heroin, but alcohol as well.

 “When we were walking around talking to classes about heroin, a lot of kids were worried and said that maybe we [Webster] should start looking into drug-testing. We could drug-test athletes legally and in fact, we are looking into it. We’ve been talking about drug-testing for a while but heroin was really the catalyst that is causing us to look into drug-testing,” said John Raimando, assistant principal. “The school board has deemed Webster’s drug problem as a critical issue. We’ve increased our education [on drugs and alcohol] and we’re sharing all of our information with the elementary and middle schools.”

Webster also held a public forum where the main topic of conversation was about heroin along with other drugs. Parents received different packets and pamphlets from places such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, citing resources people can use in the event that they are addicted. The Parkway video was also shown, along with the girl’s parents being at the forum to answer questions. Other parents with stories about their children having been addicted where also there to answer any questions. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, heroin is an opiate derived from morphine. It can be injected via needles and more recently, can be snorted or sniffed and even smoked. Heroin now also comes in pill form, whose cheapest price is about $10 according to the Fox video. About 23 percent of people who try heroin become addicted.

“If you ever decide to do heroin, it’s one of the most addictive drugs and the hardest thing to come off of. Dope sickness is the most excruciating thing and you can’t just quit it cold turkey,” said a senior who wished to remain anonymous. “It could kill you. You need to be hospitalized to get over heroin and even then, you need drugs to help you through withdrawal.” 

Heroin has a variety of health issues including fatal overdoses, infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, permanent damage to the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain. Regular users may develop collapsed veins, infections in the heart and severe dependence on the drug, which, in the event that the user gets clean, can result in severe withdrawal symptoms according to the NIDA’s website.

“I would edit the way that heroin epidemic is phrased. Saying the word ‘epidemic’ seems to be more of a scare topic and, really, doesn’t have an effect on teens. The word ‘epidemic,’ seems to be less sincere, like it’s taking away from the issue of heroin. Teenagers seem to feel as though they are invincible, and that it’s more of a disease which they won’t get,” said Anna George, senior. “Rather than using the word ‘epidemic,’ we could use the words ‘growing usage’ or ‘addiction problem.’”
In a survey done by the Missouri Safe and Drug Free Schools 2010 Survey focusing on the Webster freshmen and senior class, the freshmen results showed that out of 119 students, zero have tried cocaine, heroin, meth, or Derbisol, with two students saying that they have tried OTC medication for non-medical reasons within the last one or two days, and two students also saying they have tried hallucinogens like PCP, Magic Mushrooms, etc.
The senior results showed that of 337 students, 22 students have tried over the counter medications for non-medical reasons, nine students have used prescription medication not prescribed by a doctor for non-medical reasons within the past one or two days, seven students have used OTC medication for non-medical reasons, 11 students have used a form a cocaine and five students have used heroin.

“We want kids to make good choices and to be able to provide a structure for them to do so,” continued Raimando. “If a student were to come to us for help, we would get them help, counseling and other resources. We would call the parents and begin the process of recovery. Above all, I would thank them for trust us. I really want students at Webster Groves High school to learn how to enjoy life without chemicals and to not need to be drunk or high to enjoy life. Heroin is a very bad drug and I’m worried about anyone who tries it.”

According to Nurse JoAnn Nestor, going back even five or 10 years, heroin was less than 10 percent pure; in this day and age, it can reach a purity rate up to as high as 80 percent. “Even with first time use, people can become addicted,” said Nestor.

“Lots of teens don’t like talking with parents, but teens should try having an adult conversation with parents about heroin. We need better education; the more you know, the more educated decisions you can make. Instead of receiving general information about heroin, administrators should give us very detailed information about heroin and other drugs,” continued George. “Weed is still more popular at Webster, probably because weed, alcohol or cigarettes, won’t kill you as fast as heroin. Heroin is an absolute nightmare.”

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