Red Ribbon Week: A Week of Awareness

By:  Angelique Newton

Red Ribbon Week is observed every year in the United States from October 23rd to October 31st.  When I first heard about Red Ribbon Week, I thought that it pertained to only illegal drugs, however, that is not the case.  Red Ribbon Week is an alcohol, tobacco, and other drug and violence prevention awareness campaign.  It began as a tribute to fallen DEA special agent Enrique Camerena.  He was brutally murdered by drug traffickers in 1985.  The National Family Partnership started the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988.  It is one of the nation’s largest and longest-running drug awareness and prevention programs.  Each year there is a different theme.  This year’s theme was “Send a Message.  Stay Drug Free.” 

              It is important to help young children and adults become aware of the effects of what addiction can do to individuals and their families.  Addiction can affect every aspect of one’s life from health to employment, and can even affect relationships with friends and loved ones.   It is a complex disease which affects the functioning of the brain and body.  Addiction can be prevented and that is why Red Ribbon Week is so important.   Schools across the nation celebrate Red Ribbon Week to raise awareness of living a drug free life.  I attended Oakfield Alabama School, and I recall that during Red Ribbon Week we had different activities each day to bring awareness to addiction.  We had a different theme every day from “Wear your Red” Day to ending the week with a pep assembly that included presentations by recovering addicts.  I was amazed to hear some of these stories.  Drugs and addiction don’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone no matter the age, race, or gender.  Particularly in Batavia, NY you can see the streets lined with red ribbons on the telephone poles and buildings.

              According to the Center on Addiction, 40 million people or greater than 1 in 7 people ages 12 and older have a substance abuse problem.  To me this is crazy…this number is more than the number of Americans with heart conditions (27 million), people with diabetes (26 million) and people who are fighting cancer (19 million).

              Red Ribbon Week serves as a method and opportunity for communities and individuals to take a stand against drug abuse and educate others on its destruction.  It is an excellent opportunity to increase community attention about the hard truths associated with youth alcohol and drug use, as well as to bring attention to prevention, successes, and future plans.  For more information, see the DEA website: “Living Drug Free: Red Ribbon Week Oct. 23-31 | Get Smart About Drugs”