The annual event also is in homage of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena who was murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1985.
“We have been dressing up each day in celebration of a drug-free life,” Pine Log Elementary School counselor Francie Livingston said. “Each class for this week and next week, because we couldn’t get everyone in one week, comes to guidance in my classroom and we’re doing some activities depending on the grade level.”
She continued, “It’s really focusing on we are better than having to use drugs.”
According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.6 million children over 12 — the age of a sixth or seventh grade middle school student — and 17.4 million children over 12 have reported using illicit drugs and marijuana, respectively.
The survey further states, “In 2010, the rate of current illicit drug use was approximately 8.5 times higher among youths aged 12 to 17 who smoked cigarettes in the past month (52.9 percent) than it was among those who did not smoke cigarettes in the past month (6.2 percent).
“In 2010, the rate of current illicit drug use also was associated with the level of past month alcohol use. Among youths aged 12 to 17 who were heavy drinkers (i.e., consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days), 70.6 percent were also current illicit drug users, which was higher than the rate among those who were not current alcohol users (5.1 percent).”
Livingston said she believes the biggest factor for elementary school students in terms of using drugs, alcohol or tobacco is curiosity and it is often driven from the home.
“They may see parents using —particularly tobacco products — and they’re just kind of curious and decide to try it too,” Livingston said.
Carrie Swann, a third grader, said she plans on living a drug-free lifestyle.
“[Drugs] can kill you ... or they can make you go to the hospital and then you might die there,” she said.
Third grader Jackson Moss added, “[Drugs] can make you crazy and sometimes if you get all crazy on drugs then [someone] might have to kill you too.”
Cartersville Middle School counselor Lori Rogers said much of Red Ribbon Week has a general focus on making positive decisions.
“[Wednesday] I met with a group of sixth graders and we talked about making good decisions and went over nine ways to get out of peer pressure situations,” Rogers said. “We discussed it’s not only about drugs and alcohol, but putting yourself at risk by doing dangerous things — that’s obviously not going to help you live a long and healthy life.”
For middle school students, Rogers said in her experience, the greatest factor in whether a student might try drugs, alcohol or tobacco comes from the influence of older friends.
“It could be an older cousin, it could be an older friend in high school, but [those students] are going to be exposed a lot faster to drugs or alcohol,” Rogers said. “The [main] drug is marijuana, and also alcohol, those are the two I’m concerned about with most of my students.”
She offered a solution if parents are concerned whether their children are using such substances.
“If there’s a definite mood change or personality change, if [the child has] started hanging out with a different group of people, definitely don’t let it slide and I would recommend [parents] even take their child to be tested,” Rogers said. “Take them to the hospital or the doctor and have them take a drug test if they’re concerned, but don’t just ignore it because it’s not going to go away because they’re probably going to keep doing [drugs] and they need that basic adult supervision.”