Students learn about drug abuse

MARIETTA – Red Ribbon Week provides an opportunity to celebrate the choice to be drug-free and provide information to help young people make and stick to that decision.

Students in Washington County are observing the drug awareness week, which started Wednesday and runs through the end of the month, with educational and fun activities.

Activities are organized by schools and the Right Path for Washington County, a group aimed at providing healthy alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse while engaging children in their community.

Leonard Carpenter, a Marietta High School senior and member of the school’s SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapter, said the week is a chance to convey important information to students.

“I think it’s a good thing to get out there for people to get in their heads so they don’t … do drugs,” he said.

SADD members made the rounds in the school cafeteria Wednesday, selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a basket containing four movie tickets, popcorn and candy, along with Red Ribbon Week bracelets.

In addition, they gave out lanyards and miniature Frisbees and asked students to sign a pledge to be drug-free.

Senior Allison Binegar was excited to report dozens had signed in about half an hour.

“We’ve had a lot of kids,” she said. “The chance to win candy helps too.”

The money raised by the raffle will go toward SADD’s community service activities, such as supporting the Gospel Mission food pantry.

The approximately 30 members of the chapter got the ball rolling on Friday, using markers to write drug statistics, facts and messages on the windows in the hallway outside the school’s cafeteria. The content touches on everything from prescription drug abuse (“RX abuse is drug abuse”) to the increasingly popular ecstasy-like drug molly (“Hyperthermia is the most common side effect”).

“It seems to be pretty effective,” said SADD adviser Theresa Morrison. “The kids will stop and read it.”

Binegar said some people don’t realize the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but she’s witnessed it firsthand.

“I know people that have harmed themselves on purpose just to get a pain prescription,” she said.

Cathy Harper, coordinator of the Right Path, said awareness of the dangers of drugs that can be found in the home is a key focus for this year’s Red Ribbon Week.

“We’ve done really good over the years hammering home (the dangers of) underage drinking,” she said. “This is what we’re trying to take to the next level, with prescription drug abuse, over-the-counter medication.”

Right Path members will be manning one of the stations for Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, on the corner of Second and Putnam streets in Marietta. There are six other locations in the county.

“We are celebrating making good choices all week, and reminding everyone that one good choice … is properly disposing of medication,” Harper said.

Red Ribbon Week is being observed at Marietta Middle School with drug abuse statistics being read over the announcements, a poster contest for eighth-graders and signing of the drug-free pledges. A session of driving golf carts with goggles that simulate intoxication was postponed to next week because of Wednesday’s rain.

Students at St. John Central Grade School will receive pencils, bookmarks and stickers with a drug-free message. Speakers are scheduled to address drug abuse topics Thursday, and a balloon release is planned for Friday.

The Right Path will play host to a Fifth Quarter dance at the Marietta Family YMCA at 8 p.m. Friday, open to area high school students.

Red Ribbon Week is sponsored nationally by the anti-drug National Family Partnership. Red ribbons became a symbol of intolerance toward drug abuse following the 1985 murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Kiki Camarena by drug traffickers in Mexico City.

Residents of his hometown of Calexico, Calif., donned the ribbons in his honor.