30 years have passed since DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and killed in Mexico. Kiki’s tragic death led to the creation of the Red Ribbon Campaign®, now the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation. TheNational Family Partnership (NFP) turned Red Ribbon Week into a national event in 1988 and has sponsored it since that time. Many of you know that I’m proud to serve as NFP’s Volunteer President.
Times have changed since we started Red Ribbon. Red Ribbon Week is stronger than ever and I believe the internet and social media play a huge role. This year’s theme, created by a middle school student in Solon, Ohio, is “Respect Yourself. Be Drug Free.” The internet and social media are allowing us to see, in real time, many of the Red Ribbon Week activities, curriculum and events taking place in schools and communities across America. Parents, students, educators and community supporters from across America are sharing pictures, videos, ideas, articles and other content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, featuring this year’s theme.
Additionally, NFP thanks the agencies, organizations, and businesses who are doing their part to spread the message.Fran Harding, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration co-authored a blog (shared below) entitled “Red Ribbon Week Reminds Us to Respect Ourselves by Living Drug-Free.” Discovery Education is hosting a Red Ribbon Week themed “Virtual Field Trip” and over 5000 educators and students will be viewing a lesson on Thursday. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is sharing tools for Red Ribbon Week, including interactive games and videos. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America blogged about our 5th Annual National Red Ribbon Photo Contest.
We’ve had 500,000 page views on our RedRibbon.org website in the last month alone and our phones are ringing off the hook. The traditional media is taking interest, evidenced by my interview with The New York Post yesterday.
Red Ribbon Week is and always has been a Prevention Delivery System. Through grassroots support in schools and communities, Red Ribbon Week sets the stage for parents, educators and community members to have open and honest conversations with their children about making healthy choices. Now, through the internet and social media, we and our grassroots supporters are able to share resources, wisdom, experiences and reach even more children. Red Ribbon Week is growing exponentially and we thank you for helping us create critical mass to promote healthy messages.
Below is the aforementioned SAMHSA blog. We hope you’ll join us in sharing the Red Ribbon Week message to the children in your life.
Happy Red Ribbon Week!
Red Ribbon Week Reminds Us to Respect Ourselves by Living Drug-Free
By: Frances M. Harding, Director, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration
Every October, people across the country mobilize during Red Ribbon Week to promote the importance of drug-free living. And this year, there is good news to celebrate. SAMHSA’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health tells us that the percentage of 12-to-17-year-olds who drink alcohol, use tobacco, or abuse certain drugs is dropping. Of course, our work isn’t done. An estimated 27 million Americans aged 12 or older currently use illicit drugs, and marijuana use continues to rise.
We can use observances like Red Ribbon Week to highlight the progress we’ve made and show the positive things we can do for ourselves and our communities when we work together. This year’s theme is “Respect Yourself: Be Drug-Free,” and it speaks to the fact that personal health and community well-being are the responsibility of each and every one of us.
In our work, we have both seen the toll that drugs take on our bodies, families, and society. Research shows that taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction. However, young people are especially at risk because the earlier drug use begins, the more likely it is to lead to serious abuse. Drugs also affect the body in other dangerous ways, causing impaired judgment and motor control, hallucinations and negative emotions, severe changes in breathing or heart rate, and even death.
The negative consequences of drug use and trafficking extend beyond their health effects. Numerous studies point to the link between drugs and violence, and drug production and manufacturing also damage the environment, including forests, rivers, streams, and wildlife both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.
The bottom line? Get involved and take action, no matter how big or small. It doesn’t take a superhero to save lives and prevent the consequences of drug use and abuse – it takes positive actions on the part of everyday people like you and me. Sign the pledge and spread the message! Visit the Red Ribbon online toolbox to find more resources and find out the many ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week and promote living a drug free life.