Our Opinion: Raising awareness of drug dangers

The dangers of illegal drug use are being shared with and among young people during this week’s observance of Red Ribbon Week.

Members of the Jefferson City Council for Drug Free Youth are visiting schools to perform skits based on anti-drug and anti-tobacco themes.

In Sunday’s Calvary Lutheran High School column, sophomore Jodie Means outlined week-long activities and events to show the damage associated with drug and alcohol use.

Red Ribbon Week began in the mid-1980s and now brings together an estimated 80 million people to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamines, hallucinogens and other drugs.

“Our hope is that with education and broadened community awareness, we can prevent drug use among children and adults,” said Deborah Kirk, a prevention specialist at Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare.

Pathways reports chronic drug abuse by adolescents during formative years can interfere with normal socialization and cognitive development, factors that contribute to mental disorders. For example, ecstasy creates long-term problems with the brain chemical serotonin and can lead to depression and anxiety.

Drug and alcohol use also can lead to addiction, a compulsion to continue using the very substance that is killing the person physically, mentally and spiritually.

The week-long focus on awareness promotes prevention. The facts and figures discourage alcohol and drug use among adolescents, sparing them from the many dangers associated with substance abuse and addiction.

The Council for Drug Free Youth conducts a range of programs.

• Safety Kids, Respect and Show-Me Players are peer-to-peer drug education initiatives.

• Cope, Team Challenge and Baseline are facilitated programs designed to increase awareness among youth and throughout the community.

• Student of the Month recognizes high school students who pledge a drug-free lifestyle. Students are recognized with gifts and inclusion in the News Tribune.

The importance of the anti-drug message is profound, and we are grateful to everyone who helps deliver it.

We commend, particularly, the students who encourage their peers to retain the precious gift of freedom, rather than be bound by the devastating shackles of addiction.

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