PAS Papers No. 1 – Concerning Drugs in the Valley

Editor’s note: This is the first of what hopefully will become a regular series of contributions from the Public Affairs Society. If you are interested in receiving more information about the Public Affairs Society, please see the contacts and emails at the bottom of the post. On behalf of the Department of Public Affairs, I want to thank the executive council of the Public Affairs Society for the great work they are doing on campus this semester.


On Tuesday, February 16th, the Public Affairs Society hosted a panel discussion featuring the Honorable Judge Jacqueline Talevi, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Bowers, and Mount Regis Drug Rehabilitation representative Lisa Hatcher. The result was an informative analysis of “Drugs in the Valley.”

“No one wants to end their life in a 711 gas-station bathroom.” This statement made by Attorney Tom Bowers captured the importance of this subject and exemplified the dangers of a changing drug culture. The solution to these developments starts with education – the purpose of the “Drugs in the Valley” event.

In the past, the stereotypical drug user has been the poor, uneducated criminal, and someone law-abiding citizens do not associate with. However, this reality has changed. Over the course of the last 20 years, drug usage has been taking on new forms and affecting new demographics, leading to a rise of heroin and a new type of drug user.

The old pattern, according to the panelists, involved the standard drug progression and escalation from marijuana to harder substances such as cocaine and methamphetamines. Heroin was contained to small pockets of the surrounding area and used mainly by the most habitual addicts. As such, deaths were not as prevalent and the issue was easier to regulate because law enforcement agencies had a known perception of the problem. They knew where the heroin was and who was using it, allowing for standardization of control and regulation.

Over the past two decades, the state of affairs has changed. Today, the typical user and the procession of usage have diverged. Heroin has spiraled out of control in all communities across the nation. The new heroin user includes the average citizen – the coach, the student, the teacher, and even the stay-at-home mom. Drugs have permeated throughout middle-class working families and society. The panelists cited stories of grandparents being duped for money by grandchildren looking to support an addiction and, most horrifically, parents losing their children and children losing their parents to overdoses.

Why heroin? When asked about the source of the problem, the panelists offered their perceptions of the issue, and it begins with prescription drugs. In today’s culture, when one goes to a medical facility, they are asked, “on a scale of 1-10, how much pain are you in?” and all it takes is a low answer to score a prescription for Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Methadone. These prescription drugs can be very addicting, and the issue starts when the prescription runs out, and these patients look to find an alternative solution to feed their addiction.

With increasing regularity, the answer is heroin. Heroin is relatively cheap compared to obtaining illegal prescription drugs, and even more addicting. One “hit” of heroin can be enough to cause physical and psychological addiction. Moreover, like all street drugs, heroin has no regulation of quality or composition. One can never know how pure the heroin is or if it is mixed with a host of unknown filler chemicals. This often toxic combination can lead to severe health problems, or instant death.

If death does not come by overdose, a slow decay will occur. Their eyes will sink in, their brain will begin to lose function, and their internal organs will begin to wither. Eventually, their body can’t handle the pressures of drug usage and everything will shut down.

To drive this addictive behavior, users will often resort to criminal activities like theft, embezzlement, and robbery. This is often how they are introduced into the legal system and set upon a path of punishment and rehabilitation, according to Judge Talevi.

Overall, law enforcement, treatment centers, and local communities are on the front lines of addressing this concerning issue. Adhering to the strong principles associated with serving the community, Judge Talevi, Tom Bowers, and Lisa Hatcher are a part of the solution. However, it is education, vigilance, and a willingness to help those in need that will truly make a difference in the community and counteract these unfortunate developments.

“Drugs in the Valley” is part of a three part lecture series hosted by the Public Affairs Society. It is the mission of the PAS to foster interaction among students, faculty, and members of the community through civic thought, active engagement, and an exploration of our republic. On March 23, PAS will be hosting Dr. Michael Federici to discuss Alexander Hamilton’s philosophy as it relates to U.S. foreign policy. In April, the PAS will be hosting a state representative to close out our Local, State, and Federal lecture series.

If you are interested in joining the Public Affairs Society, have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Kasey Reese at kfreese@mail.roanoke.edu or Tyler Hofmann-Reardon at tehofmann@mail.roanoke.edu.

For the good the of the society,

Romulus and Remus

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