The stories — true stories — Jimmy Nichols tells are not happy ones: They are stories of lives ruined, physical and mental destruction, unspeakable degradation, violence, potential squandered, prison, communities impacted, and death — the latter, in some cases, preferable to living with the horrors of drug addiction.

His up-close-and-and-personal stories are the gruesome reality show he has dealt with in his 26 years with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, coordinating drug roundups and undercover operations for state and federal agencies, tracking illicit drug trends, overseeing training for various state/county/local law enforcement agencies and civilian operations, and coordinating operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Customs, etc.

Nichols, now training director for the bureau, spoke at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

“I enjoy my work,” he says, “but after you see this kind of stuff for years, it gets to you. The drug culture has changed so much since I was in high school and college

“Today, most seventh and eighth graders can tell you what are most of the drugs in circulation, and unfortunately, some speak from personal experience. I know several instances of eighth graders being jailed on drug charges.

“One had 417 rocks of crack in his backpack at school — a street value of $6,000 to $7,000. Another recently told me he knew several kids in his school who were taking as many as 60 pills a day while in class. It’s not shocking any more to find school kids involved in serious drugs.

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“The average person never hears about a lot of the stuff we see on an almost daily basis. And I hear things from schoolkids that are completely new to me. Recently, a student told me about Triple C — a cocktail mix of over-the-counter medications that kids are using to get high.”

Today, he says, illegal sale and use of prescription medications is a major problem in Mississippi. “We’re working more cases on prescription meds than anything else.”

SEE PHOTOS of most commonly-abused prescription drugs

Drugstore break-ins have become almost routine, he says. “This morning, we caught a crew that has been involved in upward of 30 drugstore burglaries in Mississippi and Alabama. They can take $20,000 worth of pharmacy inventory and on the streets it becomes worth about $300,000.”

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In a medication-oriented society, the problem isn’t just kids, Nichols says. “A while back, we caught a nurse who was taking up to 35 to 40 hydrocodone tablets per day — she was stealing them from the hospital. Would you want someone in a critical position like that caring for you or your loved ones? Would you want your farm employee taking a lot of pills and driving one of your grain trucks on the highway, or operating a $250,000 combine?”