Drug Abuse: A Personal Story; Those Attending a Substance Abuse Symposium Hear How She Beat It

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

It all started with a cigarette. Then another and another.

That led to smoking marijuana, because she wanted the friend who encouraged her to take drugs to like her and think she was cool.

By 14, Allie Tucker of Jacksonville Beach was doing hard drugs, failing in school and getting in trouble.

"I was easily pressured into doing what the cool kids were doing," said Tucker, now 17 and a junior at Fletcher High School.

"I'm not like that anymore," she said.

Tucker was a keynote speaker Tuesday night at a substance abuse awareness presentation in the Fletcher High auditorium.

About 50 parents, abuse prevention professionals and students attended the event, which covered substance abuse warning signs, tracking adolescent behaviors, treatment options and youth culture.

The presentation was aimed at parents and people who work with and care for youth.

Coordinated by the Beaches Resource Center, a social services agency on the Fletcher High campus, the event also included talks by representatives of Gateway Community Services, which partners with the resource center, and Tucker, who depicted what it's like to be pulled into, and then struggle to escape, the Beaches teen drug and alcohol culture.

Marijuana is a problem at the beach, said Melissa Curro, Gateway substance abuse counselor. "But we're also seeing a rise in cocaine use and alcohol."

The Beaches Resource Center helps students who may be in trouble with substance abuse and provides many other services such as legal aid, tutoring, medical and health services and individual and family counseling.

Juan Martinez, Gateway prevention specialist, kicked off the event with a video about smoking because nicotine is considered "the gateway drug" to alcohol and illegal drugs by abuse professionals.

Two cigarettes can get a young person hooked on smoking, Martinez said, adding that drugs have an especially adverse effect on people under 21 because the body is still growing.

Tucker said she started with cigarettes because she thought they made her look cool and after she began smoking pot, the "boys liked me."

She "smoked pot every day, skipped school every day" and partied harder and harder. …

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