Just say no

Published 6:40 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

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By Nathan Rice

“Max is dead.” I stopped to process the news, sighed, and hung my head. It was a call that I was hoping would never come, but it wasn’t a call that came as a big surprise.

Max and I were good friends growing up. We lived a few doors away from each other, and it was hard to find a day when we weren’t together. Unfortunately, Max began using drugs as he got older, and our lives took different paths. He had some good times, but he was never able to shake the vice that would end up taking his life.

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As I stood up to speak at his funeral, I couldn’t help but think of his life and wonder what might have been different if drugs hadn’t taken hold of him. Could we have gone to college together, lived near each other as adults, and continued the good times together into our old age? I’ll never know.

It seems that drug use today is becoming more acceptable than it was several decades ago when the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign was spread throughout our nation.

A lot has changed in the last 40 years, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that illicit drugs still destroy lives, break up families, damage our society, and kill. That has not changed.

While the government’s “war on drugs” from decades ago may have waned, I hope our personal war against it has not stopped. I’m not an addiction expert, but I know three things that we can all do that would make a big difference.

First, what if we as society took to heart the old “Just Say No” campaign and refused to take that first hit of a substance that so often leads to destruction? What if we all decided that the high that came wasn’t worth the potential consequences of what came after the initial thrill?

We must work together to spread the word that there are better ways to deal with the struggles of life than by turning to drugs. Let’s join together to commit to never use illicit drugs ourselves and to help those who are tempted to turn to drugs find another solution.

Next, lives could be saved if those struggling with addiction made the decision to do whatever is needed to get clean. I can only imagine how hard this can be, but I know it can be done because many have broken free from addiction. There are many groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery that can help.

Lastly, what would happen if each of us truly supported those who were trying to break free from the grip of drugs? A difference could be made if we, as a society, began doing all that we could to help others break free and supported groups that know how to help.

I know there’s no easy answer. I’m aware the three steps that I’ve listed are brief, but I am hopeful that these words will help few people commit to battle a problem that has taken so much from us already.


Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.