ER nurse speaks to students about drugs, alcohol

Posted Dec. 08, 2010, at 10:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — When Linda Dutil was in school, the message about drugs and alcohol was simple: Don’t do it.

Now that she’s older and has seen the horrors of underage drinking and drug use during her many years as an emergency room nurse, Dutil learned that simple scare tactics don’t work.

Drawing from her experience in the frenzied, often sad world of hospital emergency departments, Dutil became a guest speaker. She travels all over the country talking to students about drugs and alcohol.

On Wednesday, she gave presentations to eighth-graders at Bangor’s two middle schools, the William S. Cohen School and James F. Doughty School.

Dutil, wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck, gave students a demonstration of the stomach-pumping process and presented sobering before-and-after pictures of people who have seen their lives unravel from drug addiction.

Taylor Simpson and Cullen Shortt, both 13, said the chilling pictures had the most effect, especially the teeth pictures. Dutil explained the effects of drug use on tooth decay. Slowly, over time, the mouth dries out and fails to produce saliva, which produces enzymes that kill bacteria. The result, according to the students, was pretty gross.

“It made me want to go home and brush my teeth,” Shortt said.

Simpson agreed that the pictures of real people show the effects in a way that words cannot.

The eighth-graders also agree with Dutil that scare tactics are not effective. Seeing the possible consequences of underage drinking or drug use was much more powerful, they said.

Dutil, who shared heart-breaking stories of teens coming into her emergency room to have their stomachs pumped, said eighth-graders are the perfect age for her presentation.

“It’s the point where peer pressure really starts to come into play. By high school, their opinions are more formed,” she said. “For me, it’s about letting them know that they have the power to make good choices.”

Cohen School Principal Gary Gonyar said Dutil’s presentation is part of the school department’s curriculum, but he said the discussion continues in chemistry class, in health class and, he hopes, in the students’ homes.

More information about Dutil’s presentation and experiences is available on her website, www.dose-of-reality.com.

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