In crisis, drug abuse doesn’t discriminate

Photo+illustration+by+Muhammad+Al-Rawi

Photo illustration by Muhammad Al-Rawi

Maddie Murphy

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter Cody Marshall graduated from Jefferson City High School in May of 2010, his life was on a downward spiral. All of his closest friends packed up and moved to college, spreading out around the country. During his high school years, he had not applied himself enough to get into the “traditional college setting,” so he was saving money to apply to a technical school.
Marshall was working temporarily, bouncing around from factory job to factory job. He gained a new set of friends that were far beyond the experimental stages of drug use. Marshall was always low on cash and without a car after totaling his in an accident. Unhappy with his life, Marshall decided to experiment with substances that made him feel better about himself, desperately searching for a way out of the black hole he felt he was in.
On Sept. 25 of 2011, his father, Jim Marshall, experienced something he never thought he would. Cody Marshall was home alone, 20 years old at the time. Jim Marshall walked into the house to find his son unconscious, lying on the living room floor. His friends had picked him up from his family’s house, gotten high with him, then dropped him off at home where he overdosed on Xanax and heroin. Jim Marshall was fortunately able to revive him through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but two short days later, his son was pronounced brain dead because of the time he was without oxygen.

[quote]“Cody was a trusting boy, and that was his downfall to the end,” Jim Marshall said. “He trusted the wrong people and made a poor choice.”[/quote]
Cody Marshall didn’t fit the stereotype of a “bad kid” or a heroin abuser. He was a fun, loving young man that wanted nothing more than to make people laugh, his father said. At his funeral, Cody Marshall’s love and compassion for others became evident to his family. The diversity of the people he had touched in his life was moving.
“He had a good number of special needs kids at his funeral because he was one of the few that hugged, high-fived or stopped and talked to them,” Jim Marshall said. “Cody also gave a lot of his nice clothes to a homeless man named Lucky as well as giving him food. He did the same to kids without these things. He was just a good kid all around.”
Cody Marshall was an organ donor. After his death, he donated 33 organs including, but not limited to, skin tissue, bones and joints. Jim Marshall even received a letter from a mother of two under the age of seven that has Cody Marshall’s heart.
This inspired Jim Marshall to start a website called Cody’s Gift. He wanted to give a gift to others just as Cody Marshall had done his whole life, and even in his death. Jim Marshall’s mission is to make a difference, and he believes there is a lot that individuals can do to improve their perception. Jim Marshall believes the fear and stigma associated with those who struggle with drug addiction is one of the main reasons why people need to do better.
[quote]“When you see a newspaper thread from a Facebook post, you just want to shake your head in disgust,” Jim Marshall said. “This is why we’re having a problem.”[/quote]
A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reveals that many people don’t understand why or how someone could become addicted to drugs. People mistakenly think that those who use or abuse drugs lack morals or willpower and that they could stop by choosing to.
“So many people just don’t understand what an addiction is. They don’t understand that it’s a disease and not necessarily a choice once you begin to develop this tendency,” Jim Marshall said. “A lot of people say, ‘Well, we just need to throw them in jail,’ and that’s the answer to it. But that’s typically what I continue to see as I educate, the ignorance or lack of knowledge that blocks common sense solutions from being addressed.”
RBHS Outreach Counselor Lesley Thalhuber doesn’t think there is any particular way that works perfectly for dealing with an issue of this caliber, but sees the removal stereotypes as a major positive.
“Never judge a book by its cover,” Thalhuber said. “No one plans on becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. It happens accidentally, slowly, over time. Think about the people who become addicted to pain medication after a surgery: a totally unintended consequence of relieving legitimate pain.”
A study on the impact of stigma conducted by www.drugabuse.com aligns directly with Jim Marshall’s findings. The study shows that stigma can lower the chances of seeking help and attending treatment, resulting in economic, social and medical costs.
“Quite frankly, this is what I believe normally shuts people down from wanting to reach out for help or even admit that they have a problem,” Jim Marshall said. “They hate the way that they would be viewed. They’re viewed as bad people who continue to make poor choices and don’t care about the condition they’re in, which is the farthest thing from the truth. There is always a deeper, underlying issue.”
He believes the lack of awareness surrounding this epidemic is life-threatening.
[quote]“I just think there is such a low level of knowledge by our youth and by our parents of youth that they continue to make poor choices, which lead or spiral to this epidemic getting worse,” Jim Marshall said. “I mean the kids make poor choices; they need knowledge. Then, the parents make poor choices on how they handle it; they don’t know what to do either.”[/quote]
Junior Eric Van Delden believes that no matter how hard the school system tries to educate students about drug abuse, a student must first change their perspective in order for a change to be made.
“People shouldn’t stereotype drug abuse because neither race or socioeconomic status cause someone to abuse drugs,” Van Delden said. “It can be easy at times to try to blame a problem like this on someone else, but that isn’t ever going to fix the issue, doing that will only divide people further. The idea of doing more in schools to prevent stereotyping is a great thing, but in reality, nothing will change until people accept that stereotyping anything is wrong and pushes us in the wrong direction as a country.”
Jim Marshall has made it his mission to get more psychologists and psychiatrists in the school setting. For a school like RBHS, Jim Marshall said it could use two or three mental health professionals for the amount of students that walk through the school doors. Statistics show that one out of five adolescents are suffering from depression or anxiety, maybe even a combination of the two, at any given day of the year.
“If you have 2,000 students, that’s about 400 of them every day that are struggling from one of those mental health issues,” Jim Marshall said. “If not stressed because of whatever stress they put on themselves. Something needs to change, and it starts here.”
What do you think are some ways to help with the issue of drug abuse? Let us know in the comments below.