The Edmond Sun
“What scares you?” was the question asked to an auditorium of Santa Fe High School students Friday.
Reggie Whitten, an Oklahoma City attorney and co-founder of the Whitten-Newman Foundation to combat drug and alcohol addiction, spoke to Santa Fe students enrolled in extra-curricular activities, who will be subject to drug testing due to a school board policy beginning this year.
Whitten said most people would be more afraid of a shark than of a toaster, but only six deaths were reported due to shark attacks last year — fewer deaths than were attributed to kitchen fires.
Pointing out that sometimes what may seem safe in reality is not, Whitten shared the story of his son Brandon’s life and death and how his son’s addiction became Whitten’s own lifelong mission.
Brandon was 25, the All-American student, an athlete and a leader.
Brandon had been in two traffic accidents. The first one killed his girlfriend, and the second one killed him. Both times drugs and alcohol were involved.
Whitten pointed out there are reasons to sacrifice one’s life whether it be for country or for a good cause, but sacrificing one’s life due to drug abuse whether it be caused by alcohol, prescription drugs or street drugs is not acceptable and is totally unnecessary.
“No one ever told me I couldn’t stop,” Brandon had said.
Whitten said a question that some might ask is, “Why couldn’t Brandon stop?
“The answer was he had become an addict and his brain chemistry was changed forever,” Whitten said. “Scientists know how this works. Twenty percent of the population is built differently and will react in a different way when using drugs.”
Oklahoma spends $1.4 billion each year in direct costs caused by substance abuse, Whitten said. “The majority of those costs are related to safety and security issues (i.e., prisons, jails, prosecution), and the contribution of substance abuse to domestic violence/sexual assault and resulting child abuse and neglect. The overall negative economic impact on the state from substance abuse is estimated to be between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.
“The real and tragic cost is measured in human lives ruined or ended by alcohol and other drugs.”
Whitten said drug abuse contributes to a large percentage of homicides, divorces and the incarceration rate, and that a large percentage of illegal drugs come from terrorist groups.
Whitten has had the opportunity to travel to Africa with Pros for Africa.
During a video presentation, former University of Oklahoma All-American and New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Loftin said, “Every decision you make affects your future.”
Whitten added every school has the same problems with drugs.
One time drunk equals 14 days lost in training time, Whitten said, and marijuana impairs short-term memory, perception, judgment and motor skills.
“Studies show marijuana use is six times more likely to cause psychosis,” he added. “The choices you make will determine your fate.”
Senior Zak Kerbo said, “I think this assembly was very informative for those students who don’t know what addiction can do to them. I am a huge OU fan and I was interested in hearing about Pros for Africa.”
Whitten founded Fighting Addiction Through Education, or F.A.T.E., an organization dedicated to educating people in Oklahoma about substance abuse and drug addiction.
Whitten knows he can’t go back but must go on each day.
“Now, I just know — this is my fate,” he said. “This is my fate to try to get the word out. This is my fate to do this as long as I live.”
Edmond Santa Fe principal Jason Hayes said, “I think this was an excellent message for the students to hear. Mr. Whitten had a story to tell that hopefully the students will think about.”
NEW DRUG TESTING POLICY IN PLACE
The assembly was the introduction to the new drug testing program for Edmond students adopted by school board members Nov. 1 and put into effect Jan. 7.
The drug policy passed by board members states the participation in athletics and extra-curricular activities is a privilege, and the district is committed to being proactive in ensuring the safety of all students and sees drug testing as being part of a supportive program.
This program is one of many the district will be sponsoring throughout the year as it emphasizes that drug usage brings harm as well as a high.
“As part of a comprehensive effort to reduce the number of incidents of drug use and abuse by our students, we will continue to look for programs, such as Fighting Addiction Through Education (F.A.T.E.), that will assist us in educating our students about the harmful effects of drug use as well as the danger of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction,” said Jason Brown, executive director of secondary education. “Programs like F.A.T.E. appeal to our students because they involve notable personalities and use language students can relate to. Our goal is to continue to be proactive in bringing similar high-quality educational programs to our schools.”
FOR MORE information about Brandon’s life or to learn more about F.A.T.E., go online to ChangeYourFate.org.