Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – Hundreds of posters were submitted by K-12 students from Kingman Unified School District and Kingman Academy of Learning as part of the “Walk Away from Drugs” contest sponsored by the Kingman Area Meth Coalition.
The posters were judged last week by coalition volunteers, including Police Chief Bob DeVries, who started the coalition 13 years ago, and his wife, Laurie.
“We basically invited key stakeholders in the community to discuss the epidemic of meth in the region,” DeVries said. “We talked about what we are doing, where are the gaps and what can we do to make a difference.”
Kingman challenged Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City to organize a “Walk Away from Drugs,” which has attracted more than 2,000 participants in Kingman each year. The 11th annual walk is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The purpose is to steer kids away from drugs. Initiations to heroin have increased 80 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds since 2002, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Laurie DeVries, chairwoman of the Kingman Area Meth Coalition, said the poster contest is divided into age groups of kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and high school.
Posters are judged by whether they were completed by the students themselves, how strong their message is, and what they learned from the project.
“It’s very noticeable in posters from the younger groups that they are experiencing drug abuse in their own family by how they respond and what they write,” Laurie DeVries said.
Children from a “normal” family will write about riding their bicycle or going to Disneyland, whereas children from parents abusing drugs will write about family time and making mommy and daddy happy, she said.
One of the posters from a middle school student showed a “healthy” apple, and another apple that was contaminated by smoke.
And a high school entrant wrote: “My mother did drugs. She thought she should control it. In turn, it ate her alive, starting with her mind, then her heart. She left me behind, disappearing into a shell of her former self. I will never do drugs so that I will never hurt anyone how she hurt me.”
The poster contest is a great way to get children involved and learn about the dangers of drug addiction and the damage it causes, said Michelle Valandingham, a judge and drug program coordinator for Mohave County Department of Health.
“Being involved in the poster contest, they do research on what drugs do to their body. It’s great engagement,” she said.
Some feel that prescription drug abuse has fueled the rise in heroin addiction among youth, as adolescents who first experimented with prescription pain pills to get high are now switching to heroin, which is cheaper and more accessible.
Prescription pain pills can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 each or $1 per milligram, figures that quickly add up among addicts who need more and more of the drug to achieve the same high. By contrast, one gram of heroin can cost around $50.
But this isn’t the only way teens are getting addicted to heroin. Drug traffickers in Mexico and Columbia are specifically marketing heroin to suburban teens, using popular brand logos on small drug packets and giving away free samples of heroin to kids, only to return and sell it once those same kids become hooked.