Red Ribbon Week spooks away drugs

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

The door on Tucumcari sixth-grader Isabel Herrera’s classroom may look like it’s decked out for Halloween – it comes complete with cobwebs, dark colors and spooky-looking figures.

But the door is not, in fact, adorned for the ghoulish holiday. Herrera said it depicts the world when people are on drugs.

“One side of the door is (decorated) like a circus,” Herrera said of the colorful, playful scene that represents a drug-free state contrasted with the other side of the door – drug use and abuse.

Tucumcari schools, the ASAP Coalition, Teambuilders Daycare and other schools throughout Quay County traditionally participate in activities in honor of Red Ribbon Week, an annual drug awareness event that began Sunday and ends Monday.

This year’s Red Ribbon events will include evening activities today and Thursday at the Zero Gravity Youth Center, 118 E. Main St., culminating with a Red Ribbon dance on Friday at the center from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a cover charge of $3.

A Red Ribbon carnival and haunted house is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at the Quay County Fairgrounds with a cover charge of $1 and a canned goods donation.

Now in its 20th year, the Red Ribbon Campaign began when Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico, according to the National Family Partnership.

Friends of the slain agent wore red satin badges to show their fight against illegal drugs would continue, the partnership said.

Students at Tucumcari Middle School are encouraged to wear red – as well as decorate their classroom doors in a contest that ends for the winner in a pizza party.

“Another cool door is one that has all these shapes all messed up,” Herrera said, “with writing that says ‘Be drug free, see straight.’”

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, an alarming number of state residents of all ages are not seeing straight.

For nearly a decade in the 1990s, the department reports New Mexico had the highest death rate from drugs in the entire country, double that of the national average, and the biggest occurrences of death by heroin overdoses.

A Quay County student survey in 2003 reflected that marijuana was the most commonly used illegal drug among students, with 30.4 percent of students grade nine through 12 having smoked it within the past 30 days of taking the survey, 10 percent of them at school.

The statistics also said within the month prior to taking the survey, nearly 10 percent of students admitted using cocaine, 9 percent used inhalants, 7 percent used heroin and nearly 13 percent admitted to methamphetamine use.

Tucumcari police reports often reflect more than five arrests per month for charges related to methamphetamine – and those are only the ones who get caught.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), methamphetamine use has been steadily increasing since the early 1990s, based on the number of those abusing the drug who end up seeking treatment. Again, these numbers only reflect those who are willing to come forward and admit they have a problem – not the total number of people who actually use the drug.

The NDIC also points out while some methamphetamine is produced locally, most of the drug kicking around the state is smuggled across the border from Mexico, in similar situations in which DEA Camarena was murdered.