Motivational Speaker to give talk about Substance Abuse, Aug. 22, 2008

By Roger Renteria

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 22, 2008 – A recovering meth addict and suicide survivor will offer a cautionary tale to Tech students and the Socorro public schools students next week. David Parnell will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, at Macey Center about his fight with substance abuse.

Parnell will share his story about his battle with the methamphetamine addiction, which nearly cost him his life. Parnell is traveling the country, talking about his addiction in hopes to prevent others from going down the same path. During the day, he will speak about his drug abuse at Sarracino Middle School and Socorro High School.

He will speak about his 23-year addiction to drugs — seven of those years using meth. Parnell began abusing drugs at the age of 13 and later progressed to methamphetamine use. He attempted suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shot gun, virtually blasting his face off. He said that police believed that his injuries were so severe that he would die on the way to the hospital. He has had over 15 surgeries to reconstruct his face and has been drug free since then.

The event is sponsored by the Residential Life office at New Mexico Tech, the 7th Judicial District Attorney, the City of Socorro and Health Family Initiative.
Ruth Stoddard, director of Residential Life, said she recommends that students attend the event. She and Sara Grijalva, assistant director, worked with the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office to bring Parnell to campus.

Stoddard said the new crew of residential assistants are very receptive to having Parnell come to speak at Tech.

“This is an opportunity to educate students to make appropriate life decisions,” Stoddard said.

Keri Penner, pre-prosecution diversion director with the District Attorney’s office, said Parnell’s story is both a cautionary tale and an inspirational story.

District Attorney Clint Wellborn said his goal is to prevent people from beginning the drug in the first place because it’s harder to seek treatment. He said first-time users are students from junior high to college. He hopes that by telling the truth, not based on ideas, that people will make the right choices.

“People don’t understand how addictive methamphetamine is,” says Wellborn.

Methamphetamines are intensely addictive. Effects of methamphetamine include lack of sleep, hallucinations and paranoia. Physical effects include sores, skin outbreaks, weight loss, chemical burns and “meth mouth” — the deterioration of teeth and gums.

Wellborn and Penner both said meth addiction affects everyone in the community, not just family and friends. Many users resort to crime to feed their habits, Wellborn said.

“Law enforcement officers catch addicts committing crimes such as domestic violence, identity theft, falsifying checks and neglecting their own children to feed their habit,” Wellborn said.

The environmental impact of producing methamphetamine is costly. Penner said producing a pound of meth produces five pounds of waste, much of which is toxic. In the cooking process, chemicals are mixed together, producing harmful fumes. Wellborn said houses have been condemned as an environmental hazard and torn down.

“The only way to stop this is to educate kids and prevent it,” Wellborn said. “It can be treated, but the effects are long-lasting.”

Parnell will speak in Magdalena the next day. He will also speak at schools in Truth or Consequences, Reserve and Torrance County.

– NMT –