Oct. 13, 2011
At the State Capitol today, nearly 1,000 Texas fifth- and sixth-grade students took a pledge to remain drug-free as part of the 2011 Texas Red Ribbon Rally. The rally promotes Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign observed Oct. 22-30 that uses school and community events to teach millions of students about the dangers of drug abuse.
Statistics show that young Texans between the fifth- and sixth-grade years are at the greatest risk for starting to use drugs. The late elementary school years are typically when alcohol use increases by 52 percent, tobacco use doubles, and marijuana use triples.
“We want to reach kids and their parents early because once they learn the consequences of drug use, they are half as likely to use drugs,” said Mike Maples, DSHS assistant commissioner for mental health and substance abuse services. “Plus, there are some dangers parents may not recognize. They know to warn children about tobacco and alcohol, but many don’t realize the bathroom medicine cabinet houses some of the most commonly abused drugs.”
Nationwide, over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse has become increasingly popular, with 20 percent of high school students saying in 2009 they had taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s order. Students are also misusing over-the-counter cough and cold medications, which are widely available and are falsely believed to be safer than other drugs.
Additional drug facts:
- There were more than 37,000 drug-related deaths in the United States in 2009, an all-time high. The number of drug deaths has surpassed motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in the U.S.
- Nationally, drug deaths among teens and young adults more than doubled from 2000 to 2008.
- The abuse of some drugs is on the decline in Texas, but marijuana and ecstasy use is increasing.
- In Texas and across the nation, tobacco, alcohol and marijuana continue to be the drugs most frequently abused by teens.
Thursday’s statewide kickoff rally featured performances by the Texas Children’s Choir and HYPE, a San Antonio youth troupe that encourages teens to stay drug and alcohol free for life with original hip-hop choreography and positive vocals. Students also held mock legislative sessions in the Texas House and Senate chambers to vote on drug- and alcohol-related resolutions they drafted before meeting at the Capitol. Students in attendance represented Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Pflugerville.
The Red Ribbon Rally is sponsored by Partnership for a Drug-Free Texas, an organization supervised and funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Texas Partnership is an arm of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a non-profit organization that helps parents prevent drug and alcohol use by their children.
The Red Ribbon campaign began as a grassroots movement to honor the memory of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1985 by drug dealers in Mexico.
(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-776-7753)
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