Keeping Kids Free of Drugs

Study after study has emphasized to West Virginians that there are “no easy answers” to the drug abuse crisis. But a story we published a few days ago makes it clear more emphasis needs to be placed on preventing people from becoming addicted to opioids.

A courageous local man, Mike Kalinowski, told us his story of drug abuse. It is a frightening one.

Now 24, Kalinowski got hooked on drugs as a 16-year-old student at Wheeling Park High School. His pusher was a classmate, who started him out with a single Vicodin pill, then moved on.

Kalinowski had never even smoked marijuana before. Yet he quickly progressed to very hard drugs including LSD and PCP. They nearly killed him.

After that, he stopped abusing drugs. “Going from drinking, partying, doing drugs and being as messed up as I could be at any given time, I am now working a full-time job. I am completely supporting myself … I’m doing well,” Kalinowski told our reporter.

He was lucky, in a way. Too often these days, the route substance abusers take leads them directly to opioid addictions that can be exceedingly difficult to beat — if that can be accomplished at all.

Though final reports are not out yet, it is expected data will show more than 1,000 people died of drug overdoses last year in West Virginia. The death toll is only part of a crisis that includes broken families and wrecked lives.

Eight years ago, when Kalinowski began abusing drugs, few Mountain State residents suspected our state had a serious problem with opioids. We know it now.

Kalinowski’s story is a reminder of the critical importance of educating young people about drugs.

Public schools have an enormous number of mandates to meet from state and local government. No doubt one more would be received with groans from classrooms throughout the state.

But a really effective drug education program in our schools is essential — more so, in some ways, than other academic requirements.

Education officials should take an honest look at what is being done now to keep our young people away from drug abuse. The most effective methods possible need to be put to use. Sadly, getting “back to the basics” in our schools needs to include making students understand the terrible danger of drug abuse.