For some young people, it's the adrenalin rush of whitewater rafting or barrel racing; for others it's the challenge and natural beauty of hunting, or the wholesome and unconditional love of a pet. Whether indoors or out, alone or in a group, Jefferson County students put pen to paper this fall to reflect on the things in life that give them a natural high, free from substance use. 

The essays were part of the 2021 Red Ribbon Week, which ran Oct. 23–31 nationwide and aimed to engage young people in activities that prevent substance use. According to Jefferson County Prevention Specialist and DUI Task Force Coordinator Barb Reiter, students from around the county submitted essays as part of a contest held by the Jefferson County Tobacco Use Prevention Program and Jefferson County Prevention.

Students were asked to write 250–300 words on the prompt, "For me a natural high looks like ..." Reiter wrote in an email, adding that "the goal was to have students think of ways to reach natural highs that are healthy instead of using substances."

Reiter shared the essays with The Monitor last month, some of which are printed below. 

"For me a natural high looks like..."

By Emmy Parsons

Third grade, Boulder Elementary 

For me a natural high looks like an open arena set with either poles or barrels. For some people a horse is just another animal but to me a horse is my everything.

To have a horse it means you have to have a lot of responsibility. It takes a lot of work to take care of them, from feeding to exercising them and more. Even though horses are a lot of work they give you so much in return. You may think that horses do not understand humans but they understand more than you know. They always know when they are needed the most. Horses can understand human feelings. They know when you are sad, mad or happy. They show their love by standing still while you pet or hug them or they come running when you call them in or walk smoothly while you relax. My horse is truly my best friend. She loves me through my good and my bad. My horse Tango even knows how to make me laugh. She will throw her grain bucket when she is all done eating.

When I ride I feel like I am on top of the world. The rush I get when I am barrel racing or pole bending is indescribable. When I enter the arena everything stands still and it is just me and my horse. The bond and the trust I have with my horse Tango is unbreakable. There are many ways to have a natural, healthy high but my favorite will always be running down the alley into an open arena!

"For me a natural high looks like..."

By Bree Saarinen

Sixth grade, Boulder Elementary

For me a natural high looks like rafting. I love seeing all of the beautiful views, and enjoy spending time with family and friends. When we go rafting I just hang out with my friends and have fun. We swim, jump off of pillars and so much more. This is just one of the many things I enjoy doing. Rafting makes me feel relieved and relaxed. I don't have to worry about anything when I raft, only about having fun and swimming around. That's all that matters, doing anything else other than drugs. Doing this very fun activity makes me feel relaxed because I can just focus and put everything aside and just have fun. It just makes me focus on having fun instead of having to worry about things. If you do drugs it makes it so that you can't really have fun and enjoy time with your family.

There are so much more amazing things to do than drugs. For example, running, reading, painting, drawing, sports, and so much more than that. These are just some of the many things that you could do over drugs.

If you were to do drugs it may not seem bad to you right now but in the future it can cause many problems in your health. For example it can cause heart failure, strokes, lung failure, and so much more. It could possibly make it so you could die at a younger age; you would have a higher risk of death compared to a person that doesn't do drugs.

Seeing all of the beautiful views just makes me so happy. All the sunsets, blue skies, the rain, and so many amazing wild animals. The smell of the rain, the cloudy skies, and the fresh air is amazing for you. It is very important to go outside and get fresh air and to get some exercise. A natural high is doing healthy activities instead of drugs.

"For me a natural high looks like..."

By Leah Kruckenberg

Seventh grade, Montana City School

One of my natural highs is when I go rafting. I enjoy it because when you see a rough spot ahead you know it is going to be exciting. Also sometimes when I ride in a tube and you see a rough spot ahead the adrenaline starts and you get excited to hit it head on.

Another natural high for me is when I go hunting. For example, on the youth hunt this year me and my dad and a friend named Chicken spotted three deer on the other side of the fence. They looked like they were wanting to cross. So me and my dad got out and stalked them. They got about fifty feet away from us when we realized they were all three bucks. Then they jumped over the fence, and we stood up and I shot one while it was running away from me, and I got my first buck!

Another way to get a natural high is when you are playing a sport. For me it is volleyball. When you get your spots and step into the court everyone watches you and your team, and you get an amazing serve or hit, and everyone congratulates you. You get that feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.

Another natural high for me is skiing. When you get on the lift and you know what’s waiting for you at the top. When you get to the top and start down the hill with the wind in your face and racing down even if you crash or aren’t the fastest you forget all of that and all your worries float away. It is important to have a natural high because without it you don’t know the feeling of smiling till your face hursts or smiling till you can’t anymore. That is whey I think it is important to have natural highs in your life because it makes it ore enjoyable.

"For me a natural high looks like..."

By Zach Williams

Seventh grade, Montana City School

A natural high for me is being with my dog. I like to pet my dog which makes me happy or take her on walks or take her to the dog park. I like to hike Mount Helena with her or walk to the mailboxes and back. She is a goldendoodle named Ruby. Ruby is a good dog, she knows a few tricks like roll over and bang, bang. Another natural high for me is being with my family. I enjoy going to the Big Dipper with them or playing Uno and Battleship. We sometimes have a movie night, and we watch something from Marvel. I also like to be outside and read, which is a natural high for me. I like to read the Percy Jackson series, which is my favorite. I think Harry Potter is good too though. I also like to do physical activities like downhill skiing. My favorite place to ski is at Great Divide. I like to sit in the lodge and drink hot cocoa and eat a cookie after skiing for a while. I like that feeling when you are on the ski lift and are so high in the air. When you are on a jump and you are in the air, that adrenaline rush makes me happy. Skiing is probably my favorite sport to do because it is fun and once you get the hang of it, it is so easy and peaceful. I also like cross country skiing because it is peaceful and quiet. Those are a few of my natural highs.

"For me a natural high looks like..."

By Spencer Abbott

Sixth grade, Boulder Elementary

For me a natural high looks like hunting, fishing, and most outdoor sports. Hunting is my natural high because going out and tracking deer, going through the land, and over every ridgeline is an amazing view. Fishing is a natural high because the wait for a fish being alone or with somebody next to a source of water is just amazing. There are no words to describe it. Sports are my natural high because the competition and perseverance to go and give it your all, all of the time is to feel like you are unstoppable. The feeling of accomplishment is great to feel. Drugs can stop all of these amazing moments from happening at all. If you try drugs you can stop your normal life instantly and change you from your old self.

Drugs can stop you from going forward in life because all you think about is them and when you will get your next hit. People who do drugs have an addiction for them and always want more and more, so just don't try them at all, and you will have nothing to worry about. Just think of all the things you can do now. If you do drugs all those things will stop happening all at once. Drugs will affect you later in life too. If you do drugs as a kid and stop, the effects can still shorten your life and blacken your lungs and teeth so DON'T do drugs! The problems will follow you all of your life.

Drugs can make you do very bad things. As well as people pressuring you to do them, it will be hard but you have to say no to them. No matter who they are, even if it's your friend, telling them, "No, I don't want to," is very important. If they don't stop, tell a trusted adult that they won't stop asking you. It is very important to tell them no so you [won't] get addicted and put that burden on your life. Say no! Stay free.

Drugs even make people change the way they act. Sometimes drugs can make you very angry, depressed, mean and make you hurt people you care about. Even if you just hurt them emotionally, it hurts them badly. Sometimes you can hurt your best friend and they might never talk to you again. Drugs are bad for you, so avoid the problems and don't do drugs; they'll hurt you badly in many different ways.

If you do drugs even only a little you could be stopping all of the things you enjoy doing even if it's just going outside and messing around. Just by doing a little bit of drugs you will not be yourself after drugs. All together just stay Drug Free.

In cigarettes there is a drug called tobacco. Tobacco is a very bad drug. It can cause gum disease and a lot of problems in your life. If you stay tobacco free you can avoid many problems such as gum disease, it can blacken your lungs and it can cause many problems with your life.

Cigarettes are also addictive, so if you try cigarettes you are opening a gateway full of problems later in your life, such as financial problems. If you buy a pack of cigarettes every week, a pack costs somewhere between five or six dollars. In a month you would have spent 20 through 24 dollars. In a year that's 220 dollars a year just for cigarettes!!

If you're offered one, say NO. Be part of the 2.3 billion people who don't smoke. Cigarettes cause problems like gum and lung disease. Just from smoking, 480,000 people die in a year. Cigarettes can also cause lung cancer. More than 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are from smoking. Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States. Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up. Clots can also form.

To avoid all of these problems, say no to cigarettes and tobacco. Stay healthy and tobacco free. All of the problems that occur from smoking cause 10-times more deaths than every fallen soldier from the U.S. wars combined.

Alcohol is also very bad. It can cause liver failure and many other problems in your body and brain. Alcohol has a profound effect on the complex structures of the brain. It blocks chemical signals between brain cells, leading to the common immediate symptoms of intoxication, including impulsive behavior, slurred speech, poor memory, and slower reflexes. If heavy drinking continues over a long period of time, the brain adapts to the blocked signals by responding more dramatically to certain brain chemicals. After alcohol leaves the system, the brain continues over activating the neurotransmitters, causing painful and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can damage brain cells.

If alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs can cause all these problems, why do it? Don't do drugs, smoke cigarettes, and don't drink alcohol. If you do, you are opening up to a life full of problems. Say NO to drugs. It can help you amazingly later in life to say no to drugs now! So say no, stay burden free. You don't need drugs to feel good, think of what you enjoy doing instead of drugs.

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