LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- An estimated 30,000 teens in the Las Vegas Valley are at risk of getting addicted to drugs and alcohol. Only one-third of those will ever get the help they need.
That’s why the state is funding a new program.
Alternative Peer Group Las Vegas (AGP) was created out of Mission High School, which is specifically for students in recovery.
“By the age of 13, 14, I was a methamphetamine addict,” Khara Greenwell said.
“Toward the end, it was heroin, black tar heroin,” Greg Gonzalez said.
Both teens said they didn’t care about school or their families. They were fixated on drugs.
“I hit my low, the lowest of the low,” Gonzalez said. The Mission High senior said he started smoking marijuana around his 13th birthday. Then his addiction spiraled by using heroin. And he said he did whatever he could to get the money to fuel it.
“I didn't realize just the damage I had done,” he said. “I was just going on and on as far as I could go. I wasn't looking back. I was going straight for the target which was drugs.”
For Greenwell, she said her addiction brought her new friends and relief from troubles at home.
“I didn't plan ahead. I didn't think ahead,” Greenwell said. “My thing was live in the moment until the moment ends.”
Sept. 2 marked 14 months sober for Greenwell.
Gonzalez relapsed last month.
“When I relapsed and showed up, and I had to admit it, it was embarrassing,” Greenwell said. “It tore me apart. But I wasn't judged for it. And that was the biggest surprise.”
They said they consider themselves lucky because their families pushed them into treatment. That eventually led them to APG.
“I never go to meetings, but I'm going to start trying,” he said.
“A big struggle with being a teen and getting clean is you do lose your friends because in the drug world, you connect through drugs,” Greenwell said.
But at APG, students are surrounded by what’s called positive peer pressure.
“When they're surrounded by other students who are not using, they actually are held more accountable from their peers,” Joe Engle said.
Engle founded the nonprofit There’s No Hero in Heroin.
The center is open after school and on holidays. Along with 12 step meetings, students do community service and get to try new activities like yoga, art and dance.
“You get to see the light bulb go off in them,” APG executive director Rhonda Fairchild said. “You get to see them switch from a mind of ‘I'm going to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Nobody cares about me, nobody loves me. I'm only hurting myself,’ to, ‘I want to live a life in recovery. I want to graduate high school. I want to go to college. I want to get a job.’”
Now both Greenwell and Gonzalez aren’t looking for their next high. Instead, they said they’re striving for a higher education.
“I thought it was possible. I wanted nothing to do with it,” Greenwell said. “I thought by the time I was 18, I was going to be having a gravestone above me.”
“Life is available for them too. There’s a lot of life to live and there’s a lot of joy in living,” Engle said.
Greenwell said she plans to study psychology and join the military. Gonzalez wants to become a mechanic.
Engle said for every dollar spent on recovery, that’s seven dollars saved in other services like hospitals, courts or jail.
To learn more about APG, click here. The program is free and open to students 14-24 years olds.