March 20 • 05:33 AM

Students see realities of drug and alcohol use

School liaison officer's presentation offers cold, hard truths

January 28, 2009
ALMONT — Police Officer Ryan Wilson points to the screen in the high school auditorium.

"See that there," he says, motioning to a roll of bath tissue that's made of dollar bills.

"That's basically what you'll do if you get busted for drunk driving. Flush thousands of dollars down the tubes."

Wilson is detailing a Power Point presentation he put together to show students the nuts and bolts reality of drug and alcohol use—at any age.

From cold, hard facts—like detailing the penalties involved for possession of marijuana and operating under the influence to reality check photos of mangled vehicles and the haggard, pockmarked faces of people who've lost their youth and looks to drugs—Wilson tells the students that the destruction of drug and alcohol use doesn't stop there.

"Along with the enormous fines and costs, you can also toss your resume out the window," he says. "You'll have a possession charge. If we catch you you're reducing the quality of your life for the next several years."

Ditto for being caught drinking and driving, Wilson tells the students.

"If you seek out any job that involves driving, you'll have to explain to the employer why you have that on your record," he says.

Pointing out that the legal blood alcohol count limit for adults age 21 and older is .08, Wilson reminds the students that there's a thing called "Zero Tolerance," and lets them know exactly what it means.

"If you're stopped and you're under 21 you're going to jail," he says. "Even if you blow a .03. You're going for a ride to jail and then we're going to call Mom and Dad which is probably worse than anything that could happen to you at the jail."

Wilson says he's passionate about dissuading young people from drug and alcohol use because he's seen the devastation it brings to the user, their families and sometimes their victims.

Students gasp collectively as photo of a car literally wrapped around a tree flashes on the screen. It's followed by a smashed and bloody windshield.

"How does that look?" he asks. "Not too pretty. I've been on scenes like that."

Wilson asks the students to think about what it's like to knock on some family's door and tell them the news of a horrible crash.

"It's not a good thing," he says. "I want to prevent this for your family."

He speaks of prevention in another way as well. With a slide outlining the effects of prescription drugs—vicodin, oxycontin—Wilson tells the students that their illegal use is becoming a problem—that they're not safe.

"These pills are addictive and the more you take the more you set your body tolerance and the more you need," he says. "It is not a 'medically safe high,' as a lot of kids think. These drugs affect your kidneys, your liver.

"If you have little sisters or brothers tell your parents to put these drugs away to protect them," Wilson adds.

Throughout the presentation Wilson questions the students, and he's not too surprised by their answers.

"Our numbers show that between 70 and 80 percent of students have tried pot in Almont," he says. "Do you think that it's higher or lower?"

Most answer "higher."

Same with alcohol use. The number is somewhere at 80 percent or more.

Wilson rounds out his presentation reminding students that police officers are trained to look for signs and clues of drug and alcohol use—dilated or contracted pupils, Visine nearby, smells, items in their vehicles, body language and the like.

"It's a scary thing," he says. "Lots of kids are taking their own lives into their own hands and don't even know it."

Assistant principal Kim VonHiltmayer concludes the session by reminding students that their choices resonate.

"Alcohol and drugs don't just affect you," she says. "They affect your families, your friends."

VonHiltmayer reminds students that they should build connections with adults—including teachers, counselors and school staff—and talk when they think there's a problem.

"We're not here to bust everyone and give you a hard time like you might think," she chuckles. "We're here to help you."

Wilson is preparing a similar presentation for parents which will be screened at a future date.

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