By LINDA KOEHLER

lkoehler@tnonline.com

On a quiet country road, a horror story was played out last week in Kunkletown.

Gary Flyte, 54, walked over to his neighbor's house, shot and killed Jeffrey Place and his 30-year-old son, Steven Powell.

No one knows why.

But a sad story is woven from bits and pieces from his family and neighbors.

Unfortunately, it's a story that is being told more and more of drugs and guns.

The picture painted of Flyte is one of longtime mental issues, paranoia, alcoholism and drug use.

This all happened in my hometown. Growing up, it was a place where we didn't worry about locking doors. As kids we had no fears of anyone. Everyone was a friend, even if you didn't know their name.

But in talking to people, I'm getting a much different picture of my once sleepy, sweet, idealistic Mayberry town.

One business owner says drugs are everywhere. Drug deals take place right smack dab in the heart of town. Customers come in and she can tell right away they're high.

Police are called. Some arrests are made. But for every one taken off the street, two more take his place.

My niece is a big fan of the TV show "The Walking Dead," a show that deals with survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Zombies are fictional humans that walk about in a daze, the walking dead, whose only function, it seems, is to devour other humans. Once a human is bitten by a zombie, he is then infected and becomes a zombie also.

I'm beginning to think that the zombie apocalypse isn't so far-fetched. Only we might call it a drug apocalypse. Look at a person who has become a slave to drug addiction. He has only one thought, one purpose: to devour drugs. Once he becomes addicted, everything in his life changes, and usually for the worse. His personality is altered. He craves only one thing: more drugs. In doing so, he'll do anything to feed his addiction. He is a slave to his addiction. You can bet it is a drug addict that encourages others to become drug addicts. You can't watch a television show, a movie, listen to today's music lyrics without there being some kind of drug-related connections. Our world is becoming drug-infested. It is way scarier than zombies.

Here are some jarring statistics I found on various websites.

For this old country bumpkin, this one really is a shocker: Rural teens are 83 percent more likely to use crack cocaine, 34 percent more likely to smoke marijuana, and twice as likely to use amphetamines than teens in large cities.

From drugrecognition.com's September 2010 Report, "21.8 million Americans age 12 or older used illegal drugs in that past month. The highest age percentage for illicit drug use is 18 to 21, representing 8.7 percent of the population. The most abused illicit drug is marijuana with 14.6 million drug users. On a regular basis, 2.4 million Americans use cocaine. One in 15 people who take nonmedical prescription pain relievers will try heroin within 10 years."

Thirteen million Americans have an alcohol problem. Alcohol use often results in criminal arrest, termination from jobs or family disruption such as divorce. Alcohol is a drug.

An Oct. 29, 2010, report from urine drug testing company Quest Diagnostics found "8 percent of full-time workers and 11.5 percent of part-time workers were current drug abusers."

A 2009 study by Columbia University found that "most adolescents obtain intoxicating prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinet. Ten percent of teens surveyed said they know a parent who smokes marijuana with teens. The fastest growing drug of abuse in American high schools is heroin. Forty percent of high school seniors reported they had smoked marijuana, which is considered one of the gateway drugs introducing young people to the pleasant sensation of drug intoxication. Stopping the gateway drugs is a better strategy than attempting rehab. Twenty-five percent of high school seniors have used stimulant drugs like speed. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Use Forecasting Study provided these statistics of the Chicago area: "82 percent of persons arrested by Chicago-area police tested positive for illicit drugs. Most people arrested for criminal acts test positive for cocaine. Although marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in America, 52 percent of persons arrested in the Chicago metro area tested positive for cocaine, not marijuana. Most of these individuals have fallen into drug addiction and commit crimes to feed their addiction or to provide money after their drug addiction has cost them their job."

The abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs costs America more than $600 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

Drug addiction and the crimes that stem from drug addiction are a devastating plaque. A cure can only happen when we instill the horrors of a drug apocalypse to our children from the day they are born so they do not become victims of the deadly bite from drugs. Only when we say "No to drugs" can we put the drug dealers out of business. Tragedies like the one in Kunkletown will continue until we do.