When I taught school, my students would say, “What’s the big deal about recreational drug use? We’re only having fun. Nothing will happen to me.” If students could only understand the potential tragedy.
Drug use impairs cognitive thinking while the person is under the influence. That alone should make us cautious about drug use. There is also a risk of addiction. Addiction causes the drug user to spend high amounts of money to feed their habit. This drain of funds either leads to the drug user getting into financial difficulties or leads the drug user into a life of crime to support the habit. Who, in their right mind, would risk their future for a little fun?
Our small rural community has just had a triple shooting that left two dead. The shooting happened on the other side of the river from my house. One of the victims was a young lady who had visited our church. The boy arrested was my neighbor until a few months ago. Small communities are close knit. We may not know everyone, but we know or know of a large percentage of the population. Thus each tragedy of this magnitude hits the community hard.
The 18 year old, who used to live two blocks from me, went to a drug dealer. He was accompanied by one or more men. Usually people go to a drug dealer to buy drugs, but it appears the boy and his accomplices went with the intent of armed robbery. Only a minimum of information has been released, but at some point, the 54 year old drug dealer was shot in the head. His daughter, 24, came out of her bedroom and was also shot in the head. His wife tried to take cover, but was also shot.
Only the drug dealer’s wife survived. A man outside the house heard the shots and the shooter and at least one man leave the house. He identified the 18 year old as the shooter. The 18 year old was arrested. Sheriff’s deputies are investigating and searching for the one or two accomplices.
I am sure it all started when the 18 year old wanted to have some fun or perhaps wanted to participate in the fun everyone was having. Now he is hooked. Badly hooked enough to have to resort to crime to support his habit. He has a long history for arrests for burglary. While in jail, he had an appointment in District Court related to larceny that he committed earlier in the summer. Two weeks ago, he was caught driving away from the scene of a burglary with the goods in his car. That case is schedule to be tried early next month. Now he is in jail for armed robbery and two counts of murder. His history of arrests does not show much talent for crime.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether or not to charge the drug dealer’s wife in the sale of drugs.
The score is stands at two dead and two families devastated. The drug dealer’s wife has lost her husband and daughter, an irreplaceable loss. She may also have to face charges related to the drug business. The 18 year old faces a lengthy prison sentence. His life is ruined. He parents, have lost a son, at least for a number of years. Their lives will be in shambles as they struggle along, perhaps scheduling their lives around visiting hours at the prison.
The drug dealer is not really a victim. He was involved in an illegal business that potentially corrupted a number of his customers. It can be argued he was simply trying to make a living, but considering the profits usually earned by successful drug dealers, he was probably motivated by greed. Furthermore, his products did his customers no good. It is unfortunate he died. He probably did not deserve death, but that is what happened because of drugs. We morn his death in spite of his involvement in the drug trade.
I do not know if the daughter,24, was involved in the drug business, but a potentially promising life has been cut short. This is a loss to the community as well as a personal loss to her mother. The cause is drugs.
It appears the 18 year old was not thinking clearly. He was picked up at a fast food restaurant a few hours after the shooting. Had drugs degraded his thought process? It appears he did little to try to cover his tracks other than attempt to kill all three people in the house. It appears he had no escape plan. The investigation is ongoing, but the evidence released so far should be sufficient to convict him and put him away for a long time, perhaps life. What will become of him when he is released? Certainly he will not have the life he could have had.
It is likely that one or more accomplices will eventually be arrested and tried. If convicted, they will be subject to significant jail time. At least one more family will suffer. None of the active participants could be called a victim. The perpetrators chose to use drugs and to commit crimes. The dead man and his wife chose to get into the drug trade. The dead daughter made the choice to continue to live in a home where drugs were sold. On the other hand, family members who had no drug involvement will suffer from this incident.
So the moment of pleasure experienced by the 18 year old has lead to two deaths, the prospects of a lengthy prison term and anguish for two, three or four families. I would hope our young people would consider such consequences before they experiment with drugs.
All of this is exciting drama that us writers could easily weave into a novel, perhaps a best seller, but what are our obligations as writers? Certainly we have obligations to be creative and entertain the readers, but what else?
Most of my students who admitted to drinking or using drugs admitted that peer pressure was part of their motivation. The news media, and entertainment magazines play up the fact that the rock stars and movie personalities frequently use drugs. Articles in some newspapers give youth the impression that drugs are something everyone is doing. Certainly drugs must be acceptable if one’s favorite rock star or movie actor is a drug user. That is the impression entertainment magazines give when they report on drug use among celebrities. Even when these magazines report a celebrity going into drug rehabilitation, the magazines seldom get across the point that the drug use is a real problem.
When we include drug use in our stories, what kind of image do we portray? Even if we do not intentionally glorify drug use, could we be accidentally supporting it? Do we call drug use a “normal” part of growing up?
Drug use is a part of life. It can add an element of intrigue and danger to a story. There is no reason to leave drugs out of our story just because they are drugs, but how do we write about it? I for one, will be trying to impart the message that drug use is not good. I will be trying to tell people that, like any other crime, drug use and drug sales are morally wrong and should be avoided. I will not be treating drug use like it is just another phase of growing up. It is not. It is a growing problem.
Perhaps if we writers make a concerted effort to de-glamorize drugs, at least a few drug situations can be avoided. Perhaps some future tragedy, such as my community suffered, can be avoided.