Every morning, hundreds of students stand up at Lejeune High School, hand over heart, facing the flag as the National Anthem plays reminding them of the sacrifice made by one or both of their parents who serve our country.
These young adults embraced their resilience as 144 students signed a pledge to remain drug free after meeting with representatives from the Substance Abuse Program Oct. 30 and 31 to highlight the importance of Red Ribbon Week, eight days that have been set aside annually at a national level to raise awareness of the havoc caused by addiction. This tradition was set in place after the brutal death of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Marine and DEA agent, as he fought to stop the flow of marijuana and cocaine into our country by Mexican drug cartels.
Through hands-on activities and interactive presentations, the representatives from the Substance Abuse Program were able to share information about the dangers of substance and alcohol abuse to our high school students which ignited thought provoking discussions on how this issue affects them as high school students.
Every class that came through was asked how many students have been hurt, or known someone who has been hurt by drug and alcohol addiction. Each time the question was asked, the majority of the class would raise their hands.
Military children with a deployed parent are at a higher risk of developing addiction than those who are not.
Statistics indicate that nearly 78 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol by their senior year. One study found that the percentage of students who drank alcohol in the past 30 days is 7-9 percent higher for students whose parents are deployed in comparison to students whose parents are not.
One significant contributor to the development of addiction is stress. One of the biggest stressors faced by our teenagers is the fact they are constantly moving and readjusting to new duty stations on top of facing the emotions associated with the deployment of a parent. Yet another contributor to adolescent substance abuse is exposure.
In the state of North Carolina, 41 percent of adolescents report having used marijuana. This is higher than the national average which is still at 39 percent.
So how do we prepare our students to make decisions that protect their future? The first line of defense is at home. Studies have shown that parents who are actively involved in providing their children information about alcohol and drugs, teaching their children the skills to stand up to the temptation to misuse substances, have more success in reducing these risks.
The second line of defense are the schools. Lejeune High School took up this mantle by inviting in the Substance Abuse Prevention team.
If you are a parent, take the time to talk to your children and teach them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. That small amount of time may make a significant difference for their future. As important as these discussions are, remember that an ounce of example is worth more than a ton of advice.
If you or someone you know needs help to address the battle of substance abuse, please contact the Substance Abuse Counseling Center at 910-451-2865 for Camp Lejeune or 910-449-5249 for New River.
Editor’s note: Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.