DASSEL-COKATO, MN Students in Brooks Helget’s health and wellness class at Dassel-Cokato High School recently heard some cautionary tales about the dangers of drug use from people who know.
Representatives of the Know the Truth program, the prevention program of Mn Adult & Teen Challenge, shared how far their lives descended when they became addicted to drugs.
Rey Khammavongsa now works as a prevention presenter for the Know the Truth program. “I’m not here to tell you what to do,” he said, “just to show you what happened to me.”
His downward spiral began in middle school, with marijuana use.
Khammavongsa was caught with some pot, and had to face the authorities and his mom.
“That day it didn’t really sink in for me until my ma walked in,” he said. “My actions impacted someone besides me. I wish it was enough to stop me from using more drugs.”
As often happens, Khammavongsa began using other illegal substances to get high. He ended up becoming addicted.
“Addiction is like a bell in your head,” he said. “It starts as a choice, but becomes a lifestyle.”
Khammavongsa’s drug use eventually ended up with stints in prison: once for assault, and once for home invasion/armed robbery.
Khammavongsa shared several harsh details about being in prison, and what it was like when he got out.
He said he learned withdrawal from oxycontin was 10 times worse than “the worst cold or flu.”
He learned he was sitting with rapists and murderers while working his prison job. He earned 12 cents per hour folding balloons.
He learned that having a felony on your record means you lose privileges, such as the right to vote, drive, join the military, or possess firearms.
He found out that once you have a felony on your record, potential landlords and employers nearly always reject your applications.
Eventually, Khammavongsa enrolled in a Mn Adult & Teen Challenge program, which helped turn his life in a more positive direction.
His work with the Know the Truth program and the message he shares means a lot to him. He said he knows his family is proud of him now. He admits he does have some lingering regrets.
“What bothers me today is that I’ve hurt people,” he said. “That’s what really gets me today.”
Another former addict, Michael, made the following assertions about drugs.
• Marijuana can be emotionally addictive people eventually rely on it to cope, and to mask their real feelings.
• Marijuana can be laced with harder drugs like PCP, angel dust, and fentanyl.
• Vape pods are flavored like candy to attract young people. Chemicals used in the pods may be harmful to the brain, which is not fully developed until the age of 25. The pods may contain embalming fluid and trace metals, among other toxic materials.
• Often, when people begin to use, there are some red flags. These include changes in friends, music, and clothing styles. “You are who you hang out with.” Michael said.
• Prescription medications can be abused. Often, prescription drugs bought on the street may contain fentanyl, or other drugs. Those additives may not be evenly distributed in the pills. People who abuse prescription meds often turn to harder drugs, like methamphetamine and heroin.
Help is always available
The speakers shared several resources with students.
• An anonymous text hotline 612-440-3967; for anyone with questions, in need of help, or just looking for someone to talk to.
• Information about the Know the Truth program may be accessed at www.knowthetruth.org, or by emailing email@example.com. The Know the Truth program also provides a resource guide listing more than a dozen other organizations offering assistance.
• Information regarding the Mn Adult & Teen Challenge program is available by visiting https://www.mntc.org/.