VILONIA — Taking a no-nonsense approach concerning a drug awareness program, a representative of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association told students at Vilonia Middle School to use their brains rather than burn up their brain cells. 

Scott Montgomery, representing the ASA, told students Wednesday his presentation to them was on behalf of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department.

"I’m here because Sheriff (Karl) Byrd cares about you and he wants you to know the truth," Montgomery said in a matter of fact manner.  

He encouraged students to think independently and not succumb to peer pressure concerning "gateway drugs."

He followed up by presenting facts and figures relating to the use of tobacco, alcohol, inhalants and marijuana. Telling the students the four are addictive, he asked for a definition.

"It’s something you just can’t put down," one student shouted.  

Proceeding down the list, he told the students inside tobacco there are 4,000 different chemicals including a "very powerful chemical" nicotine. Bug spray, he said, is also an active ingredients.In  cigarettes, he said, ammonia is the chemical that keeps one burning.

"Ammonia is toilet bowl cleaner," he said. "Every time you put a cigarette in your mouth, you are putting toilet bowl cleaner in your mouth."

Effects on the body, he said, include impaired tastes buds — decreasing the ability to smell and taste as well as causing stomach ulcers and potential life-threatening illnesses.

Many hands were raised when Montgomery asked students if any of their parents smoke. The response launched an informational session on second-hand smoke. As well as to refrain from smoking, Montgomery also encouraged students to avoid being around others using cigarettes or cigars.  

"Limit how much you are around it," he said. "If you are in the same room, you can breath stuff in."

Each year, he said, 3,000 people die from second-hand smoke. He also told the students that smoking and being around smoke may limit the capacity of their lungs and can keep them from being "as good an athlete."

Smoking, he also, said can affect personal appearance including wrinkling skin, yellowing of teeth, fingers and tongue. The use of smokeless tobacco was also addressed. Potential consequences for using it, Montgomery told students, includes cracked lips, bleeding gums and mouth cancer. 

Tobacco, he said, kills 435,000 people every year. He also reminded students they must be 18 to purchase tobacco products and that using them prior to then can result in stunted growth.

"But, when you turn 18, that does not mean you bodies are ready to handle these poisons either," he said.  

On the subject of alcohol, Montgomery told the students that ethanol is the chemical that affects one’s  brain. Alcohol use, he said, lowers inhibitions as well as blood pressure and can result in alcohol poisoning, damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, brain and stomach. 

"By saying it lowers inhibitions, it means that you don’t think about consequences of your actions," he said. 

Driving impaired, he said, can also result in accidents which, he said, happen every 20 minutes in the U.S.

"By the time we start this program to the time we end it, someone is going to die," he said. 

He showed a photo of a wrecked van in which he said six teens died due to the use of alcohol. In the U.S., he said, 25,000 people are killed each year due to alcohol related crashes.

Turning to the subject of inhalants, he asked if any of the students had every heard of huffing. A majority of hands went up. He provided information on how rugs, handkerchiefs, socks, soda cans, plastic bags, balloons or chemical containers or used during huffing.  

"You get dumber every time you do it," he told the students, adding that brain cells are lost forever in the act as well as each time presents a risk of death. "You kill them (brain cells) by the thousands when you do it."

He talked about the short term effects and long term effects including that inhalants can cause permanent damage or kill the first time they are used. 

"Think about this, there are boys and girls your age who have to go to school in diapers because they did this," he said.

Lastly, he broached the use of marijuana. There’s more than 400 chemicals in marijuana, he said, with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the main active chemical. Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana smoke, the user will likely feel, along with intoxication, a dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, some loss of coordination and poor sense of balance and slower reaction time, he said. Blood vessels in the eye expand, so the user’s eyes look red, he detailed.

The average first-time user, he said, is 14 years old. Using the drug, he told students, is illegal, and it stays in a user’s blood for 30 days often causing users to be fail drug testing for employment. Using drugs, he told the students, can cause one to not get jobs. 

In conclusion, he asked students why, with all the negatives, did they believe that one would succumb to using drugs. 

"People think it is cool," one student said. 

Montgomery agreed saying the student "hit it on the head."

He concluded the program by encouraging the students to weigh out the pros and cons and to refrain from using drugs a first time.

"You guys know the truth," he said. "Now, it’s on you."