The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019

Strawberry talks about drugs at NPAC

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

All-Star baseball player Darryl Strawberry volunteered to lead a discussion of substance abuse in the Van Wert community over the weekend, as part of the Epidemic of Hope anti-drug initiative that includes the Rev. Jerry O’Brien’s Harvest Recovery Ministry, as well as the Ohio Attorney-General’s Office drug abuse initiatives.

Former baseball All-Star Darryl Strawberry talks to kids about his substance abuse problems during a talk at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio on Sunday afternoon. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

On Sunday, Strawberry first spoke to approximately 200 young people and a few parents at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center about the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of opioids and related drugs. The former baseball star, who played 17 seasons, seven of those with the New York Mets, as well as stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and New York Yankees, and was an eight-time All-Star, said he did so the entire time while suffering from the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

“I started using marijuana when I was 13 and played under drugs my whole career,” Strawberry told the young people, noting that he was “broken” and in pain caused by abuse and rejection of his father, who left his mother when Strawberry was 14.

The former major league baseball star said he was finally able to get free of substance abuse, thanks to religion and his current wife, Tracy, adding that he decided to volunteer to help people get off drugs because he hates to see so many young people dying because of drugs.

“I get so frustrated seeing so many young kids dying,” Strawberry said. “If we talk about his, there’s a 60-percent less chance of it happening around here.”

He told youngsters to avoid using marijuana — especially now, since it could be laced with fentanyl, a very powerful form of opioid — and railed against the medical profession’s overuse of opioid painkillers over the past several decades, something he said is a prime reason so many are addicted today.

He advised kids and their parents to avoid the use of opioid prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, instead advising kids and their parents to stick with Tylenol for pain.

“When kids take those drugs they alter their minds,” Strawberry noted, adding that parents and kids should question a doctor or other medical person who wants to give opioid medications to their kids. “They mess with kids’ minds and it’s hard to come back (after using those drugs).”

Strawberry said that even broken limbs don’t warrant the use of powerful opioid painkillers.

“No one gave opioids years ago when kids broke their arms,” he noted, adding that modern pain management ends up too often in addiction.

Strawberry noted that fentanyl was especially dangerous, telling kids about a man who had been smoking marijuana for 30 years, but died of an overdose when he smoked pot laced with fentanyl without knowing it.

“Fentanyl is no joke,” he said.

The former All-Star said drugs affect young people even more than adults. Because girls’ brains don’t fully develop until about age 23 and boys at around age 25, Strawberry said using drugs before that can permanently stop development in a person’s brain, as well as affect a person’s ability to make good decisions in life.

Strawberry said those who use drugs are trying to shut out psychological pain and suffering, but said kids need to take their lives in their own hands and realize that each person is unique and must deal with their own problems.

“Don’t let anybody else define who you are,” he said. “No one holds your future in their hands but you.”

He also said that parents need to hold serious talks with their kids and talk about their own pain and adversity, noting that doing so with his own kids was hard, but necessary to keep them off of drugs.

“I had to sit down with my kids and tell them ‘your dad is a drug addict; your dad is an alcoholic’,” Strawberry said.

Kids also need to deal with their pain without resorting to drugs or alcohol, he said, but noted it isn’t easy.

“People who have been broken on the inside never get healed without work,” he added.

During the evening session, Strawberry mostly provided testimony to a mostly church-based audience on how he came to know God and Jesus Christ.

Rev. O’Brien also talked, noting that churches need to be more compassionate to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, while Christians need to learn how to deal better with this problem.

Noting that there are four major areas related to substance abuse treatment, including intervention, prevention, the actual treatment, and support, Pastor O’Brien noted that churches are “the number one resource for support” and can also help prevent drug abuse.

After an offering was taken to support a local, church-based anti-drug program spearheaded by the Van Wert County Ministerial Association, Rev. O’Brien exhorted churches to get involved in helping drug addicts get clean.

“We can’t close our eyes anymore to this problem,” he told Christians in the audience. “If we don’t help, we’re not fulfilling our mission.”

Pastor O’Brien also said that churches need to devote resources to the drug problem, noting that churches should match the dollars they spend on foreign mission work to pay for training people to help local drug addicts, some of whom “are sitting in our own pews.”

Rev. O’Brien also said his organization provides two resources to help Christians with their task of getting people off drugs: a Christ-centered anti-drug curriculum and an app that provides contact information for Christ-centered recovery centers (the app can be obtained at

Also speaking was Jennifer Lloyd, director of the drug abuse initiatives program created by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office. Lloyd commended the efforts of the Strawberrys and Rev. O’Brien’s organization, but noted that, with the state being “ground zero” for the U.S. drug problem, all Ohioans need to “open their hearts and find ways to help.”

POSTED: 04/16/18 at 8:19 am. FILED UNDER: News