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He Got Addicted at West Point, Now Owes the US $330K

Football player Jared Rogers' opioid story raises larger questions about Army views on addiction
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2020 8:11 AM CDT
Updated Mar 22, 2020 2:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – The temperature was around zero when the West Point football team took to the practice field early on the morning of March 4, 2014. So cold that defensive back Jared Rogers ended up with frostbite in his fingers. After a few days in the hospital, medical records show he left with a prescription for Percocet, reports NBC News. "That’s where my addiction began," says Rogers, now 27. "The seeds were sown." But this isn't just a story about one cadet's opioid addiction. It's one that raises questions about whether the Army's methods of dealing with the problem at large are outdated, given the punishment Rogers eventually faced: He was given an "other than honorable discharge" and ordered to repay the government $256,000 representing the cost of his education at West Point. Today, that debt has ballooned to more than $331,000.

The story by Rich Shapiro recounts Rogers' path. When he got hooked, other players with prescriptions of their own helped him out with a pill here or there. But when the addiction grew, he connected with another cadet who dealt in opioids and other drugs. Rogers' big mistake was lending this cadet his car to bring drugs onto campus, a decision that led to charges of participating in a drug ring. He struck the equivalent of a plea deal: Charges dropped, but no graduation, along with the enormous fee. The story explores two differing views on the case: "My view is that he’s lucky he’s not in jail right now," says retired Col. Jack Jacobs. Contrasted with: "To a certain extent the military still views substance addiction as a shortfall or weakness of the person, almost like mental health was viewed 20 years ago," says Greg Rinckey, a former Army intelligence officer. Read the full story. (Read more West Point stories.)

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