Former student believes ‘no solution in sight’ for drug problems

A former student believes what takes place within and outside of Southmoreland school district in the world of drugs and it’s constant effects on the district and its community have no easy solution.

“First, genuinely I feel like the drug epidemic in southwestern Pennsylvania and all across America has become absolutely ridiculous. I can’t feel safe in my own town,” said former Southmoreland student Casey Leonard. “It has absolutely gotten out of hand. The drug issue has destroyed millions of lives and will continue to do so.”

Leonard himself has bear witness to what drugs can do to an individual, and furthermore said he has personally experienced the effects of drugs.

“Honestly, if you ask me, there no clear solution in sight. As long as there will be drugs, people are gonna buy them,” Leonard said. “I think an overexposure of medication distributed by doctors made people want them more. They were too lenient and got everyone hooked on their medicine. Then they wanna take it away, so now all they’re left with is heroine and other drugs off the street.

“I believe that all schools have a drug problem,” Leonard continued. “From what I know, Southmoreland is a relatively clean school. Sure, everyone has their bad seeds, but Southmoreland overall seems alright. Then again, keep in mind, I haven’t been in school in over two years.”

According to Mrs. Andrea Hanford, guidance counselor, “we are aware of everything that goes on in this school, good or bad.” She said the school recently installed a new surveillance system, and school officer Greg Keefer and the school security guards who rotate shifts, patrol the halls and restrooms for any kind of misbehavior.

Leonard thinks back on his life and what he experienced in high school, and said he realizes for someone to receive help, they have to look for it and want it. He said he didn’t seek help until late into his senior year of high school.

“Yes, I personally believe there should be help for students, and I believe there is,” he said. “But none of them will work if the drug addict doesn’t want to change. I personally surrounded myself with good people who you can actually look up to, and they inspired me to want to be a better person.”

Mrs. Hanford endorses the district’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) which “provides resources for at-risk students in grades K-12.” She made it evident those who are involved in overseeing the program to forward information to the appropriate person on staff.

“I believe about 20 people out of about 150 (seniors) were addicted or ‘recreational’ users,” Leonard said of his classmates.. “I’d say that two years later, more people use drugs than the number of people when I was in school. I was addicted to suboxone, and it took five years to recover from my addiction.”

Leonard had a realization at some point in his life to know better than to let his addiction go on to hurt himself or anyone else.

“I realized that I was only hurting myself and my loved ones,” he said. “So I decided not to be a letdown anymore. It’s not hard to relapse; it’s always there, so you have to separate yourself from that life no matter what. Every relationship I’ve ever had I lost because of drugs for one reason or another. That goes for friendships, too.”

Leonard called his family and girlfriend “My support system. I don’t even want to picture the terrible human being I would be without them. They are my everything.”

Leonard said that if he could warn students today, “I’d tell them that it’s not worth it, no matter what personal issues you have. Drugs won’t make life any better. It will actually make them worse by clouding your judgment. Based on what I’ve seen, getting high only makes you lose everyone and everything you love; and you can end up  in jail, in an institution or dead.”

Leonard reflected on his life while on drugs: “If there was one thing I could have done differently, I would have never started doing drugs in the first place. I ruined my own life. I thought I was having fun, but really I was making my real life miserable. Getting high is sincerely the biggest regret I have in my life.”

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