Cocaine, ecstasy, whippits, Adderall, meth, MDMA, acid, magical mushrooms, marijuana - the list went on.
About 30 other types of drugs students said they have tried were rattled off during the opening moments of the documentary “Neuqua on Drugs,” which played last night at .
Within those first minutes of the film, students made it clear that Naperville’s drug problem can’t be solely pinned on heroin.
“It’s a whole culture that people get into,” said one student in the film.
filmmakers Kelly McCutcheon, senior, and Jack Kapson, junior, said “Neuqua on Drugs” isn’t about delivering an anti-drug message, but rather an hour-and-a-half dose of reality.
“There’s so many reasons, whether it’s peer pressure or it’s just kids being bored at home and wanting to try weed, there’s so many different reasons that get kids started,” Kapson said. “We just wanted it to be the reality and show what’s actually happening.”
To illustrate that reality, McCutcheon and Kapson interviewed 25 high school students over the course of three months for the film, which tells the story of the growing youth “drug culture” in Naperville.
McCutcheon, who plans to study cinematography at Columbia College in Chicago in the fall, said once students heard about the film many came forward to be interviewed.
“We started with one kid that we knew that did drugs and it just kept escalating,” she said. “And we kept finding people that wanted to be in it.”
Some of the students interviewed remained anonymous with their faces and voices disguised, but all of their stories were raw, emotional and uncensored.
Whether they were recovering addicts, current users, dealers or knew someone who died of an overdose, each interview subject was effected by drugs in one way or another.
As their stories were told on screen to the 140 parents, students and educators in attendance last night, some audience members tried to hold back tears.
“For everyone, it’s surprisingly a lot to take in, especially for the parents,” Kapson said, “A lot of them had no clue. All they knew was ‘Oh, there’s a drug problem,’ but they didn’t know to this extent.”
In the film, some students described their experiences with taking drugs like heroin, explaining how accessible and affordable it has become compared to other drugs. Many also told of the risks they’re willing to take just to purchase drugs.
One student recalled a time when she witnessed a drug deal happen inside a Neuqua Valley classroom, unbeknownst to the teacher as her back was turned to the class.
Another said he took 15 Ambien along with a slew of other prescription drugs before his mother found him sweating and confused in the corner of her apartment as he muttered to her, “I need help.”
He, like a number of the other students in the film said they have been through rehabilitation at Linden Oaks center.
But unfortunately, some never recovered, like senior . Kapson said Miller’s mother, Amy, was in attendance and told Kapson how much she appreciated the film. Friends of Miller remembered her life in the documentary along with the lives of two other students who also recently died from heroin overdoses.
With such a revealing look at Naperville’s drug problem, even Neuqua Valley staff members in attendance said the issue now encompasses more than previously thought.
“I think being a dean of the school, I’m really aware of what’s going on with drugs, but there’s definitely some things in that film that I was not aware of,” said Neuqua Valley dean Kerry Cahill. “And I’m actually a little taken back by the number of drugs our students have tried. I don’t think I’m naive on that, but I do think this film sheds a different light on that.”
After pouring more than 200 hours of work into the film, McCutcheon said she’s not sure were the documentary goes from here in terms of solving the drug problem as she’s merely a “middle-man.”
“I don’t know what it’s going to do or where it’s going to go. I just wanted to document it just to show people what’s going on,” McCutcheon said. “And it’s for them to make the choice if they want to do something or not.”
Cahill added that she’s seeking to work with students to find the root causes of drug abuse to stop it from growing.
“We want to know what should we do, what’s the answer here? I think that’s the one thing that educators are looking for so bad,” Cahill said.
And until parents and local educators can find that answer, for now, hopefully students will listen to a message from one of their peers.
“Nothing good comes from heroin,” said one student in the film. “Nothing good ever comes from drugs.”