Stephens COO Curt Bradbury on Fighting Teenage Drug Abuse (Exec Q&A)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, May. 21, 2012 12:00 am  

Curt Bradbury, COO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock.

Curt Bradbury, the COO of Stephens Inc. in Little Rock, will receive the 2012 Marie Interfaith Civic Leadership Award at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center. He will share the award with Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane.

Bradbury, best known as a finance executive with the Stephens organization over the past three decades, will be honored, along with Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane, with the Marie Interfaith Civic Leadership Award for their work to address prescription drug abuse by teenagers. He talked to Arkansas Business about the inspiration for his work on this issue.

Q: Your 24-year-old son Cameron killed himself in 2010 after years of addiction. Tell us how that started.
I know exactly when it started. He had started marijuana at age 12, and we were aware of that and tried everything we knew to stop it. But we were on a family vacation, and he was grubbing around in his mother's purse and found some hydrocodone that she had been prescribed, and he took it.

Since he died, we've looked at things he had written on his computer, and we figured out that this was his ah-ha moment. "This feeling, the way this made me feel, was what I'd been looking for." After he went to college, he was taking as many as 40 Lorcet tablets a day.

Q: What have you learned that you want other parents to know?
I didn't know this until after Cameron died, but according to the Office of National Drug Abuse Control Policy, Arkansas in 2010 had the highest rate of teen abuse of prescriptions in the country. And I'm personally certain that Little Rock has at least as high a rate of teen abuse or higher than the rest of the state.

One reason I took up this issue is that I don't know how to stop abuse of marijuana or cocaine or heroin or methamphetamine or hard drugs coming across the border from Mexico. But in our community, somehow, prescription medications are coming from the medicine cabinet onto the street and killing our kids. Now surely that's something we can do something about.

The reason you have to be an activist is some kid will take the step down the slippery slope and be able to make it back. Some kids will take the step down the slippery slope and never make it back.

Q: What can be done?
A: One thing that can help are the take-back programs, which not many people know about and which have to be used more extensively. It's simply that you clean out your medicine cabinet every once in awhile. You don't let things accumulate, and you don't flush it down the toilet. The police have places where you can throw your prescription medication to be destroyed.

When Kirk Lane became police chief at Benton, he saw that he had too many overdoses and too many drug-related suicides in his community. So he's done a lot of work, and he gets more drugs in his take-back program per capita than Little Rock does. The chief has cut his death by overdose rate and his death by drug-related suicide rate way down. He has saved lives. And that's what we have to do a better job of here in Little Rock.

Another thing we have to get over is denial: Parents looking at bizarre behavior and saying, "No, no, that can't be drugs. Not my little darlin'." That's something I can contribute to the conversation. Yes, my little darling. Was I in denial for a time? Yes. Did I want it to go away? Yes. Denial goes from the addict to the family to the community.

If you suspect your kid is on drugs, it's worse than you think. If you know your kid is on drugs, it's worse than you think. And by the time it gets to that point, it's worse than you think.



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