Red Ribbon Week is approaching, and middle schools across Florida will be raising awareness and facilitating communication about kids making healthy choices. The red ribbons that teachers and students will wear aren’t just for decoration—they signify a commitment to staying safe and resisting the dangers of teenage drug and alcohol use. Such a campaign would seem naturally geared toward high schoolers, but the message is just effective for middle schoolers and even earlier. In fact, the years when kids are 11-14 might be the most important time to deliver these messages.
As much as we want to believe middle schoolers aren’t old enough to be abusing drugs and alcohol, the reality is junior high kids are just as vulnerable as high schoolers, perhaps even more so. The parts of the young adolescent brain that deal with stress are still maturing, and the coping mechanisms they learn now can become ingrained for the rest of their lives. If middle schoolers turn to drugs this early, they can be setting themselves up for a lifetime of struggle.