By Lorie Palmer / Idaho County Free Press Dec 7, 2022

Original Article:

GRANGEVILLE — “You are being lied to,” Michael DeLeon told Grangeville and Clearwater Valley high school students Nov. 30.

DeLeon is an ex-inmate and recovered drug addict who founded “Steered Straight.” He lives in Tennessee and travels the country to present the dangers of drug use through a down-to-earth message.

“I cannot make you believe what I say — the choice is up to you. And only you can stop the drug use. But I’m here because you are worth it,” he told the crowd of kids.

DeLeon relayed to the group that fentanyl poisoning is currently the number one cause of death for all 18-45-year-olds and is the number one cause of death for those 20 and younger in nine states.

“Do not take medication unless it has been specifically prescribed to you,” he implored. “Do you understand? You just cannot do it. I’ve been to 27 funerals in the past 12 years, mostly from deaths due to drugs.”

DeLeon worked with the Scared Straight and Beyond Scared Straight programs for five years and five seasons, respectively.

“Did they work? He asked. “80% of the Scared Straight kids ended up incarcerated. 10% ended up dead. The other 10% couldn’t be traced. You tell me — did it work?”

DeLeon told the students they have been lied to by the media and the government.

“You’ve been told vaping is safer than cigarettes. It’s simply not true,” he emphasized.

He reported the nicotine levels and synthetic products in vape equipment, cartridges and products are much higher and worse than in cigarettes.

“They’re the cigarettes of your generation. And they’re offering mango vape but they’re not targeting kids? Come on. You’re being lied to,” he shook his head.

When he asked the students if they think at least 75% of their classmates vape, more than 90% of the kids raised their hands.

“This is a problem. Only you can change it; make the decision to stop,” DeLeon said. “You are worth it.”

He cited such atrocities as popcorn lungs, trace amounts of lead and illegal drugs placed in vape products. He also beseeched the students to not use alcohol or marijuana.

“The brain is still fully developing through about the age of 25,” he stated. “Substances can alter your development.”

He addressed what many students have said to him about marijuana being a plant and being “natural, made by God.”

“There’s nothing natural about the weed coming out of dispensaries now,” he said. “In 1961, there was 1% THC in marijuana. Fifty years later, it rose to 12%. Only two years later it was at 37%. Chemists, scientists, and a little company called Monsanto — they’re manufacturing marijuana with unreal levels of THC.”

He said, “this generation will see fertility issues, cancer, death,” from the current manufactured and synthetic drugs.

“You already are,” he said. “You just don’t realize it yet.”

“You have been lied to,” he reiterated. “I am just here to tell you the truth.”

DeLeon, 58, wove his own story of immigration from Ireland, bullying, divorced parents, sexual abuse and getting into smoking, drinking and drug use into his presentation. Although he didn’t rely on emotionalism, he let the students know the consequences of his choices.

“In 1995, gang members in the drug world came to kill me. I wasn’t home. My mother was. She was murdered on Mother’s Day,” he stated. “I have to live with that the rest of my life.”

DeLeon has completed intense research on drug addiction and addicts, written several books and curricula, consulted on a number of television, film products and documentaries. He said there are three things every single addict has in common.

“The trifecta for all addicts is they all started in their teens, smoking, drinking and using marijuana,” he said, acknowledging there is a gateway to worse activity and behaviors.

He encouraged students to make good choices, find a trustworthy adult to talk to and break the cycles of drug abuse, violence and bullying.

“My favorite author — after God — is Maya Angelou. She said, ‘You do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, you do better.’ That’s what I’m asking of you. Now you know better, so, please, do better,” he ended.