OGDEN -- Ogden Police Detective Randy Lythgoe talks about drugs like a traveling minister in a tent saving souls: Loud and with feeling.
The former Weber/Morgan Narcotics Task Force member practically shouted, "I'm going to give you kind of a down-and-dirty education on what's really going on out in the streets," at the audience at McKay-Dee's monthly education seminar.
Then he waved his arms and pointed to a screen full of obituary notices, bruised children, a coffin, drug needles and prescription drug bottles, photos all taken right in this town.
Some of those kids he knew, he said. He interviewed at least one, and asked, "Why?"
The answer, he said, was, "I had no idea what I was getting into."
Yes, he said, he's talking about prescription drugs. And, yes, he's talking about children just like the children of the people in his audience Wednesday.
Yes, drugs are everywhere, and it is the legal drugs, the prescription drugs in everyone's medicine cabinet, that anger him the most.
He pointed to the screen and words poured out:
"Because you can't separate them. I can go to a drug dealer and I could buy illegal prescription drugs, or I could buy heroin or cocaine. Whatever. I was starting to find, at the end of my strike force experience, more and more people addicted to illegal drugs using prescription drugs to cut their jonesing, their cravings. They were doctor shopping, stealing from others, committing crimes, whatever it took to get over their cravings."
The myth that people are seduced into drugs?
"I have never found anyone who didn't choose to be involved," he said, but was quick to go on that young people, especially, suffer from "the lack of education in their decision."
Lythgoe said he gave this talk at schools until recently, and said he firmly believes that education combined with enforcement is the only true solution to the drug problem.
"I think human beings, most of them, want to be decent people, and I think sometimes they lack the education and knowledge to get out of these situations," he said. "And sometimes they don't want to get out, but we've got to at least try."
If that means raiding schools, that's what's needed, he said.
"Are you talking about Bonneville High?" said a voice from the audience, asking about the high school in which 11 students were arrested recently for dealing drugs.
"I went to school there!" he shouted back. "My alma mater!"
The prescription drug problem has exploded since 1996, he said, which by no coincidence is the year that Oxycontin, a powerful time-release narcotic pain reliever, was introduced. Between 1999 and 2006 the number of prescription drug overdose admissions to hospitals almost doubled in Utah, from 43,000 to 71,000.
At the same time, he said, Utah no longer has the dubious honor of having the highest rate of deaths per 100,000 from prescription drug abuse, with 18.4 per 100,000. It now trails Nevada with 19.6, West Virginia with 25.8 and New Mexico with 27.
Still, Lythgoe said, that's too many. "I was on a panel talking about the 300-plus people in Utah who overdose every year and a fellow said that relative to our population, 300 isn't that big a deal, and I said if you're one of those 300, it's a big deal; if you're one of their family, it's a big deal.
"And what if that were 300 homicides ... Would that be a problem? But we're not upset about these; they did it to themselves. Well, maybe they did, maybe they did."
People don't realize the seriousness of the problem "until you look in the Standard-Examiner at the obituary page and there's a young person, and you wonder what happened.
"Well, I read the reports. I know what happened."
What can people do?
He waved a flier. On Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2186 Lincoln Ave., the Ogden Police Department will be collecting any and all drugs people want to turn in, prescription or not.
Get them off the street, out of your home and, more importantly, out of any neighbors' homes that your kids might visit.
"You might be able to control your house, but you can't control where they go, so you have to educate them. You need to go home and check your medicine cabinet and educate them."