Normally, a nationally known blues guitarist appearing at Upper Dauphin Area High School would be an upbeat event.
But Chaz De Paolo wasn't there to entertain. His music was a tribute to two of his siblings whose lives were cut short by the abuse of drugs and alcohol,
“Folks, I got news for you. Addiction is addiction,” De Paolo told a silent group of tenth grade students. “Drugs. Alcohol. Food. Sex. An addiction is an addiction.”
The New York state Blues Hall of Famer was there as part of a day long drug education program, using his own story as a warning.
“Upper Dauphin Students Hear Hard-hitting Message on Drugs and Alcohol”
“I've spent five to six days in a psychiatric hospital,” said De Paolo, detailing how drugs and alcohol derailed his personal and professional life before turning things around twelve years ago.
Sophomore Amanda Mills was one of those moved by De Paaolo's message.
“That really hit home,” said Mills. “That made me cry a little bit because it's amazing that it can affect the whole family, not just you. It can go from generation to generation.”
Classmate Jessica Hoffman echoed that sentiment.
“It was very rough. I teared up at moments,” said Hoffman. “It was really hard to take in and realize how other people's lives are affected by drug and alcohol.”
Later, the students were invited outside to see first hand how drug sniffing dogs are used in the war on drugs.
A canine handler showed how quickly his dog was able to track down and locate four grams of marijuana hidden earlier in the day inside the hubcap of a parked car. It was a clear message that nothing stays hidden from these four-legged detectives. Among the other drugs the canines are trained to sniff out, the detective said,are heroin, methamphetamines and ecstasy.
Another session featured a drug enforcement agent who provided a close up look at the drugs and paraphernalia collected during raids, along with video highlights of how those raids are carried out.
Other topics touched on throughout the day focused on the dangers of tobacco, life in a drug treatment facility, babies born with addictions and the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain.
“Alcohol acts on the brain in less than six minutes. Just one drink,” explained Penn State-Hershey Med Center Critical Care Nurse Schelley Brandle.
Wellness Instructor Joann Sites says the face to face anti-drug and alcohol program is needed more today than in previous generations because of what students have access to on the Internet and social media.
“You can't get this kind of impact from a text book,” said Sites. “The message means much more coming from experts in the field and from those whose lives have been personally affected by drugs and alcohol.”
“If I get through to one of you guys today, I did my job,” said De Paolo, summarizing the purpose of his school visit.