5 Minutes with the SROs: Red Ribbon Week raises awareness of risks, consequences of drug use
CRAIG — Moffat County will join a national campaign to raise awareness of the risks and consequences of drug use during Red Ribbon Week, slated for Oct. 29 through Nov. 2.
The Craig Press recently caught up with School Resources Officers Nathan Businger and Ryan Fritz, who answered questions about events planned locally for the campaign and current drug use trends Craig schools.
Craig Press: Who is participating in Red Ribbon Week, and what is planned for the week?
Nathan Businger: Moffat County School District, Craig Police Department during Trick-or-Treat Street, and Grand Futures is helping at the middle school with trivia questions and games.
Ryan Fritz: SAPP — Substance Abuse Prevention Program — will also support the event.
What topics will be raised with students during the week? Why?
Fritz: The theme is “Life is your journey, travel drug-free.” Each day, there will be different information, a snapshot of the whole spectrum put out during the lunch period. Jill Hunstad — the new Moffat County Grand Futures youth development coordinator — is working on what that specifically will be and trying to keep the verbiage that we use kindergarten through grade 12 pretty much the same, so that kids keep hearing the same thing over and over.
Businger: We’ll be focusing on vaping. That seems to be a popular trend, specifically in our schools here in Moffat County.
Fritz: Middle school is the target audience, as we want to reiterate what they were learning in D.A.R.E. We don’t get a lot of class time at the middle- and high-school level, so we are using lunchtime as a good time to have a conversation and do some relationship building.
What is the SROs’ role during the week? How have you participated in the past?
Businger: This will be my first year. I’ll be helping at the middle school with trivia games during lunchtime. Some decorations will be put up, as well as posters and materials with facts surrounding substance abuse, provided by Grand Futures.
Fritz: We do our best to support Grand Futures. That has been a great relationship in the past. Jill Hunstad is new, and she started just in time to be told that this Red Ribbon Week is something she needs to do. I think it’s going to be productive. Her son is the SRO at Steamboat High School.
Why do you believe it is an important event for our schools?
Businger: I believe one of the most important factors when it comes to substances abuse prevention is education. And, I believe that the more we can teach our students about the risks and dangers, the less likely they will be to use substances. It goes beyond educating students to educating parents, as well, and encouraging them to have open conversations with their children.
What kinds of trends are you seeing in the schools in terms of drug use?
Businger: Vaping and Juuling. Juul is a brand of vape product. Juuls are very popular with students, because they are easy to conceal, they are affordable and locally available.
Fritz: If parents are looking in their homes and find something that looks like a thumb drive, but not quite like a thumb drive, it is probably a Juul. There’s an education process we are going through. There are websites that parents also need to look at to help identify these products. If a drug is water-soluble, it can be used in an e-cigarette, so it may not be nicotine. It could be anything from THC oil to heroin, meth, prescriptions — you name it.
Is this different from prior years, and if so, how?
Businger: From what I’ve seen, I think the Juul is becoming much more popular, because it’s widespread and locally available.
Fritz: Other e-cigarettes are also readily accessible. One of the other trends I’m seeing with high schoolers is binge drinking is becoming a problem again, or it’s never stopped being a problem. We have had situations where students are getting extremely intoxicated and mixing in THC. Because of marijuana’s natural ability to inhibit vomiting, kids aren’t getting sick, and students are getting dangerously high blood alcohol levels without the body’s natural protection. Thankfully, we haven’t had any deaths in Moffat County, but it is happening across the nation.
What kinds of pressures or influences are you seeing that might cause students to choose to use drugs?
Businger: I’d go back to the vaping and Juuling. A lot of the students we find vaping and Juuling think it’s safe. Electronic cigarettes, their main marketing is that it’s safer than smoking. What we are finding now is that it is actually as dangerous if not more dangerous than smoking a cigarette.
Fritz: There are some instances where vaping and marijuana use, and even alcohol, in the home is viewed upon as safe, OK, whatever by parents. So the students learn that at home, and because they have been told at home that it’s OK, then they think it’s OK. I’m certainly not one to tell parents how to parent their children, however, there needs to be a lot more education about the truth behind some of these substances that even sometimes parents use. Because of the availability of recreational marijuana, there is a lot of discussion of its “benefits,” however, the leading experts in the addiction field are predicting that there will be skyrocketing cancer rates in young people in the next 10 years specifically because of recreational marijuana use.
Businger: It’s difficult to combat substance use and abuse when it has been deemed socially acceptable.
What do you think should be done to prevent student drug use?
Businger: Education. The more students we can teach about the dangers of substance abuse and Juuling, and the more parents we can educate — it is about educating students and helping them to make better decisions. That’s really the idea behind D.A.R.E., and that’s why we like the D.A.R.E. program so much.
Fritz: I don’t believe we will ever stop everyone from using. Some kids will still experiment, but by educating them on the consequences and risks of using, at least the students will understand and, hopefully, make better choices.
What can the community do to support Red Ribbon Week?
Fritz: Parents, especially middle-school parents, should be having a conversation at home about the information we are giving out and what they are learning. Fifth-grade parents, specifically at Sunset and Sandrock, could have a conversation about what their students are learning in the D.A.R.E. program. D.A.R.E. defines a drug as any substance other than food that affects the way your mind and body work. So we are talking about nicotine and alcohol and good drugs versus bad drugs. D.A.R.E.’s new tagline is “Teaching students decision making for safe and healthy living.” Rather than telling kids “don’t, don’t, don’t,” we tell kids the real consequences of risky behavior.
What else would you like readers to know about Red Ribbon Week?
Businger: We know that smoking and vaping typically lead to using other substances and potentially abusing other substances, as well as taking prescription medications that are not yours or at a higher dose than what is prescribed, and also significantly increase abusing and even becoming addicted to substances. So we are focused on current trends that we are seeing now to try to prevent some of these risky behaviors now and in the future.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.