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NEWS9 Special Assignment: Teens and Drugs

Though few talk about it, there is a war being waged to save children from a life of addiction (WTOV).

Though few talk about it, there is a war being waged to save children from a life of addiction.

Just how real of an impact is the drug epidemic having on our area youth? NEWS9’S Ryan Eldredge investigated to find out.

We've all heard about the problems and we've done numerous stories about policing, recovery, and more.

Usually we hear stories about the adults and they hardly ever dive into the world of teenage users or dealers. Now, we're doing just that in an effort to educate our viewers of the real problems that exist amongst our area youth.

We've heard it said that the drug epidemic has no boundaries. It goes after men and women, black or white, all walks of life, but it isn't too often that people discuss how much it is affecting our children.

“It's not only adults. Our kids are dying. They are OD'ing. It's not that they don't know right from wrong. A lot of them are trying to medicate pain, whether it's things going on inside the home. But it's a culture,” said Gregory Lewis, a minister and chaplain at the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center.

Prescription pills, alcohol, and marijuana can be easy for teenagers to access.

“Nowadays you don't know what's in it. They sell make up with drugs or heroin or whatever it is,” Lewis said.

It can lead to some dangerous choices.

“They're experimenting and they're being reckless and now they're experimenting and don't know adults are getting their hands on some of these pills in there, passing them down to kids that are under the age of 18 and juveniles and are using them. Then eventually they get themselves hooked on them in some capacity,” said Doug Knight, Jefferson County juvenile drug court coordinator.

In November, NEWS9 went out in search of teens who have had experience with drugs and we found two who were willing to share their stories.

“Was just bored one day and tried it with my friends. I liked it so ever since then I was just smoking and having a good time,” one teen said.

“Once you already did the drug, you don't even care. You're doing it. It's yours. The first time it's like what's it going to be and they ask a bunch of questions and they love it after that and that's pretty much how it is.”

The young men we spoke to are working to turn their lives around to leave behind difficult pasts.

“My best friends is like that. They're all doing years in prison right now, when my friends got caught shooting someone in West Virginia.”

“Just had no purpose. I didn't know what I was doing it for. All of it was just dumb. There was no purpose.”

But it's not always easy, because the life they have chosen was selected over the life they left behind.

“When you smoke and do other stuff it basically calms you down and pretty much gets you away from the actual problem. but really it's still there.”

When asked why education, experience, and the tragedies around them failed to deter them, the answer was simple.

"It went through my mind, but at the time it didn't really matter because I felt like I didn't have anything to lose and I was just worried about getting money and stuff like that so it was just, it didn't matter."

“You could tell anybody anything. They'll still up to them whether they want to do it or not. It's up to them to have a breakthrough and realize what they are doing is wrong.”

For adults like Greg Lewis and Doug Knight, who work closely with children at the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center, the problem is heartbreaking and the solution is anything but simple.

“I don't know if it's prevention. I don't know if it's policing. I definitely know it's parenting because mommy, mom and daughters and sons are getting high together so where do we start?” Lewis said.

“It's somewhat stunning. Just because they're willing to engage in that behavior so quickly and we're getting off the street, they're not sure but it is, what I think it is, trying to resolve but they’re still taking it in the rolling the dice and putting your life in jeopardy and also just bringing themselves into a situation that's going to provide a series of setbacks in terms of their lifestyle choice,” Knight said.

Officials say one of the keys to prevention is education and programs provided throughout the area could be the key to reaching a child before it's too late.

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