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Phoenix man wages battle against drugs at schools

PHOENIX -- Drug deals being made at high school campuses throughout Arizona are on the rise.

The Center for Disease Control recently released its Youth Risk Behavior survey. The study found that 31.3 percent of high school students in Arizona have been offered, given, or sold illegal drugs at school.

Arizona has the second-highest percentage of drug deals on high school campuses in the nation. New Mexico has the highest percent at 32.8 percent; Nevada is No. 3 with 31.2 percent.

The Arizona Department of Education said it was aware of the Center for Disease Control's findings but did not comment further on the issue.

But one Phoenix man has devoted his life to ending teen drug abuse after nearly losing own life to drugs.

"I would have saved myself decades of heartache due to substance abuse," Shane Watson said.

Watson began using drugs in high school at 16. He said he gave in to peer pressure to use drugs because he wanted to mask the pain of life.

It was a long, hard road to recovery and sobriety for Watson. After using drugs for 20 years, he got clean and devoted his life to keeping students from making the same mistakes he made.

Now, Watson works as a substance abuse peer educator with Not My Kid, a not-for-profit organization in Phoenix aimed at educating people about trends, warning signs, and the long-term impact of destructive behaviors in children.

Watson said he spends his days sharing his life story with students and working with students who face drug problems.

"I've had children as young as sixth grade come up to me after my presentation and let me know, not only have they been offered drugs on campus, some of them have been using on campus," Watson said.

Watson said many school staff members are unaware of Arizona's growing drug problem on high school campuses.

"We still meet educators who are convinced this is something that happens in a dark alley, in a bad neighborhood and nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

Watson said people need to know the reality of the problem.

"Part of what I do is trying to educate educators on how prominent this is. We have to realize this is happening at our schools, our neighborhoods, and sometimes our homes."

Preventing drug use is the only way to fix the problem, in Watson's opinion.

"Like the proverb says, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' " he said.

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About the Author


Cooper Rummell is a Southern California native. He moved to Arizona in 2012 to pursue a bachelor's degree in journalism at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Since May 2013, Cooper has worked as a desk anchor and reporter at KTAR. He has a passion for investigative political reporting and covering the local crime beat.

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