ST. CLAIRSVILLE - As unfortunate as it may be, there's a drug problem in the Ohio Valley.
It's a problem that's becoming more and more evident in area schools, too.
The St. Clairsville High School 'SADD' group helped to do its part of spreading the word when it welcomed Dr. Paul Weidman of the Belmont County Correctional Institute Friday morning for a speech dealing with all sorts of issues surrounding drugs.
The speech was heard by kids in grades 7-12 in two different segments and focused mostly on drug addiction, which is what Weidman deals with most in his practice.
"My daughter is actually a member of SADD and she kind of volunteered me when they decided they wanted to have a speaker about addiction," Dr. Weidman said. "Unfortunately, (drugs) are epidemic in our area, especially opiate and pain pill abuse. It's getting really, really bad in our area."
Weidman, who has been treating drug addiction for seven years, told the students that "addiction is a disease."
He gave examples of people he's come across in his practice that were top-notch athletes in their high school days, but became reliant on drugs and now they're in prison.
"I know a guy who was a wrestler in high school, and he took Speed (methamphetamine) to be able to make weight, but then he had to smoke marijuana to be able to sleep at night. He became addicted, became a drug dealer and now he's in prison."
He also gave examples of women who've sold their bodies for drugs.
The main issue to it all is addiction, which Weidman stressed has a lot of factors that lead to it.
"Addiction is a disease of brain chemistry," Weidman said. "You can't out think addiction because the brain is not wired that way."
So, who is liable to become addicted?
"The people who use drugs or try alcohol early on in life usually become addicted easier," Weidman said. "The frontal part of your brain isn't fully developed yet and younger people are at a higher risk because of that."
In the regards to age, Weidman told the students he considers himself lucky because he actually tried alcohol for the first time at the age of 12.
The kids were attentive throughout and many asked some very poignant questions. Some of the questions even got off the topic of drugs and into other issues that teenagers are currently facing in today's society.
"I thought the kids asked a lot of intelligent questions," Weidman said. "I hope that the talk was meaningful to (the kids). If we could reach or touch one kid, I would consider that a success, but the most important thing is for the kids to realize that not only are drugs dangerous, but there is help out there."
Weidman has been working with treatment of addiction since January of 2005. He treats adults, but he's well aware of the toll drugs are taking on high school students.
"It's out there," Weidman said. "I'd have to ask the members of the police forces in the area, but it seems to be the smaller the community, the worse the problem is."
Weidman thought speaking to the junior high students as well was a very good idea because there's a chance to reach them early and hopefully lead them to making the correct decision should they ever encounter drugs.
"The studies have shown that the younger you are when you try drugs for the first time, the more likely the risk of becoming addicted," Weidman said. "The younger kids asked a lot of questions. I, and I think their teachers, were very impressed with their questions."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org