By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Since 2011, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis has been bringing his drug and alcohol abuse prevention program to middle and high schools across the county as part of its community service initiatives.
On May 29, Westborough High School was the latest venue for the interactive presentation, which features the Face2Face program, a computer program using students” images to show the shocking physical effects of drug use over time.
“Eighty-five to 90 percent of inmates in [Worcester County House of Correction] are there, directly or indirectly, because of drug and alcohol abuse,” Evangelidis told WHS's ninth- and 10th-graders, the first of two groups who attended the presentation.
The first image he showed the students” was security camera footage of an inmate in his cell, under surveillance 24 hours a day, to send the message that in jail there are no freedoms and no privacy.
“Some of the people in my jail sat in these very seats,” he told them, holding up a striped black-and-white inmate uniform.
The 45-minute presentation also uses videos, music, photos, news footage, and celebrities” stories to reach the teenagers.
Lindsay Lohan, basketball player Len Bias and rapper Eminem were mentioned as stars with promising careers derailed by drugs and alcohol. Before-and-after photographs of drug users, including a morphing collage of Lindsay Lohan's physical changes over her lifetime, provided real and sobering images.
Evangelidis went over some myths and facts about drugs, explaining that it is not true that marijuana is safe because it is natural and it most often leads to trying more dangerous drugs.
He spoke about current popular drugs such as “Molly” or Ecstasy, crystal meth, and bath salts. But prescription drugs like OxyContin are the most abused drugs among teens right now, he noted.
“More teenagers today have taken prescription painkillers than tried marijuana,” he said, calling today's teens members of “Generation Rx.”
To keep the presentation relevant for the students, Evangelidis and his team update it regularly to include current trends and new drugs and their negative side effects.
The message really hit home for the students.
“I liked that he was not just telling us why drugs are bad,” sophomore Maggie Liu said. “He used pictures and examples to make the presentation really effective.”
One of the most thought-provoking parts of the sheriff's presentation was the use of the
Face2Face computer program. Students saw pictures of their own classmates transformed into how they would look after years of drug abuse.
“Life is all about decisions,” Evangelidis told the students at the end of the presentation, and urged them to continue to make the right ones.
For more information, contact the Sheriff's Office at 508-854-1800.