First of all, apologized for the post mix-up last week. I hadn’t finished the bullying post, but I was out of town and didn’t change my auto-post setting. And now I’m editing a manuscript, so I’m delayed another week or two. It’s coming, promise!
Today is the start of Red Ribbon Week. RRW started in the 80s as part of Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign. Since then, children have yearly worn their ribbons and pledged to be drug-free. There are spirit days, such as crazy socks to “Sock it to Drugs” and fake mustaches because “I Mustache You to Not Do Drugs” (I’ve seen both of these, and many many more).
Does Red Ribbon Week actually make a difference? Well, I can’t find compelling evidence either way, and the effectiveness of the War on Drugs is disputed. So here’s what we do know about youth and drugs, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use is declining in adolescents. Marijuana use is holding steady
- Adolescents use drug for any of the following reasons:
- To fit in with their peers
- To feel good
- To cope with stress, mental health disorders, or physical pain.
- To improve academic or athletic performance
- To experiment, or out of curiosity.
I’d add a couple more based on my experience.
- Drug/alcohol use is accepted by their community or family
- The dangers of use are either not believed, or not taken seriously. Remember, young people tend to think they are invincible, or that adults are just trying to scare them.
So, apart from ribbons and pledges and crazy socks, what can we do to keep kids off drugs?
- Address sources of stress and possible mental health issues. Teachers, if you are concerned about a student, please talk to your counselor, school psychologist, or social worker so that they can connect the student and family to the appropriate resources.
- Encourage positive relationships and collaboration in your classroom. Address issues of bullying, and make sure all students feels that they are important.
- Look for changes in behavior. Decreased energy and mood, irritability and defiance, and isolation could be signs of many concerns, such as home stress, depression, or other life changes that could lead to drug use. Talk to your students as soon as you have concerns and get them the support they need.