[KHTS] – “Drugs Kill,” a free drug education meeting updating the Santa Clarita Valley community about the latest trends in drug abuse, and hosted by the Action Family Counseling drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers, is set for the Dr. Dianne Van Hook University Center at College of the Canyons in Valencia Thursday, Oct. 2, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“All drugs kill – tobacco, alcohol, meth, cocaine, heroin, opiate-based pills. We can’t focus on just one. That’s the message,” said Cary Quashen, Action Family Counseling founder/CEO and key speaker at the “Drugs Kill” meeting. The former addict has been sober and on the front lines of addiction education and treatment locally and nationally for more than three decades.
Co-sponsored by AM 1220 KHTS and College of the Canyons, the “Drugs Kill” meeting will follow a half-hour Resource Fair, also at the University Center, starting at 5:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of resources here in Santa Clarita, and we want people to choose the best approach for them when it comes to dealing with substance abuse,” Quashen said. “So our Resource Fair will bring together a variety of professionals who are there to help.”
Latest Trend: Spike in Heroin, Meth Abuse, Addiction
The most significant trend Quashen and the Action Family Counseling staff members see right now: a spike in heroin and crystal methamphetamine abuse and addiction.
“In Santa Clarita and other cities, what we’ve been doing is attacking whatever the drug of choice is at the time, and we’ve done a really good job,” said Quashen, also host of the “Families in Action” program Mondays at noon on AM 1220 KHTS.
“When crystal meth came out, it made national headlines, people were really concerned about the epidemic and it was all over the media, and (drug users) got scared of crystal meth, so they went to other drugs,” he said.
“In the last five years, heroin got huge and all of the attention was focused on ‘Heroin Kills,’ and there are all kinds of ‘Heroin Kills’ events and Internet sites,” Quashen said.
“Then all of a sudden it’s another drug,” he said. “(Prescription) opiates have always been a big problem, but opiate drug overdoses are horrible right now. In fact, nationally, there are more deaths now from opiate overdoses than from car crashes. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) calls it a major epidemic. So now there are these ‘Prescription Drugs Kill’ events and sites.”
Junk and meth are now often cheaper on the black market than opiate-based prescription pills like Hydrocodone (aka Vicodin) and Oxycontin.
“Heroin is a lot less expensive, and it’s harder to get prescription pills now because people go doctor-shopping, and after a while, there’s no more doctors,” Quashen said. “So they’re finding themselves buying them on the street, where it becomes very expensive. Really, it’s an opiate and now you can get the same high by smoking or shooting heroin for a lot cheaper.”
So the scene is analogous to a game of Whack-a-Mole: You beat down one nuisance, and another pops up nearby, taunting you. In order to win, you have to beat them down all at once.
That’s why the “Drugs Kill” meeting’s theme is “a little different,” Quashen said.
“It’s all drugs kill,” he said.
‘I’d Do Anything for Love — But I Won’t Do That’
When we’re kids and we see others make ignorant or stupid decisions, and see them get into trouble, we say, “No way am I going to be that ignorant and stupid.”
Surviving adolescence, making it into adulthood and living a happy, fulfilling life without addictions has everything to do with the strength of the personal boundaries or contracts we set for ourselves as young people, and the choices we make as we grow up, Quashen said.
“Nobody wakes up and decides they want to be an opiate addict or a crystal meth addict or a heroin addict – all drug abuse starts innocently,” he said. “Our goal is to say, ‘Here’s what happens when you start breaking those contracts you made with yourself when you were a kid. You said, ‘I’ll never smoke a cigarette’ – but you lit up a cigarette just to see what it was about, and before you knew it, you were addicted.
“You say, ‘I’ll never smoke pot’ – you light up a joint, decide that’s OK, and keep doing it. ‘I’ll never drink’ – you go to a party and drink, and keep drinking. ‘I’ll never use other drugs’ – you try meth or pills or heroin,” Quashen said. “Once we start breaking our own self-contracts, it’s easy to break another one.
“We, as society, have gotten so relaxed when it comes to what most consider ‘soft-core’ drugs – marijuana, hash, edibles,” he said. “I’m not going to attack the medical (users), but I will say, kids can’t handle that. The adolescent brain doesn’t even develop until age 20 or so. They’re not able to smoke marijuana as strong as what’s available today and still grow emotionally the way they’re supposed to, naturally.”
“We call these ‘drugs of opportunity,’ meaning when a 13-year-old starts smoking cigarettes or experimenting with pot, then he or she goes to a party when they’re already a little high and somebody says, ‘Try this,’ their reasoning is diminished, if not gone,” Quashen said.
“Let’s say you’ve got a kid or adult who has an addictive personality,” he said. “As soon as that person finds the one drug that makes him or her feel really good, they’re in big trouble. The feel-good part lasts a short time. The pain of addiction can last a lifetime. Death by accidental overdose could happen anytime. We really need to teach people about these dangers and how easy it is to get caught up in that kind of trap.”
Killing the Demand for Drugs that Kill
As Quashen noted, the war against drug abuse won’t be won by just attacking specific types of drugs, and their sources and supply lines. That’s all symptomatic of the root issue: the demand for illegal and/or black-market drugs.
Why does getting drunk or high seem attractive to some people? What’s so cool about catatonia? And how can that mindset be changed society-wide, and personally, so that reality is more attractive than drug-induced euphoria or stupor?
Thursday’s “Drugs Kill” meeting will explore those questions and possible answers as well.
The key to reducing or eliminating abuse of drugs is reducing or eliminating the demand for them. Americans in particular are among the world’s most voracious consumers of illegal drugs.
Theoretically, according to the basic law of supply and demand, if nobody wanted dope anymore, illegal drug cartels would have no customers and make no money. The existing system of sourcing, corruption and distribution would dry up.
Recognizing that scenario as unrealistic, how do we as a society still try to kill – or at least maim — the demand for drugs that kill?
Addiction as Fun as Russian Roulette
Action’s “Drugs Kill” meeting is another step toward the goal of educating the community, working to reverse the mindset that self-medicating with illegal or any other drug is OK, and to underscore the danger of addiction that can result from naive curiosity or even by accident – in the wake of painful surgery, for example.
Recovery from addiction may be possible, but staying sober is a daily, uphill battle. The quality of life is far better if one chooses to stay sober and not become dependent or addicted in the first place.
In the short run, drugs may be fun, but in the long run, addiction is about as much fun as Russian roulette.
“It’s just not worth the risk,” Quashen said.
“So we want everyone to know it’s not just smoking, not just drinking, not only pills and heroin and crystal meth. It’s all drugs,” he said. “If we can educate people to just stay away from it all, we can surely win this war against drug abuse, or at least make a way bigger dent than we are right now.”