Oct. 23 marked the start of Red Ribbon Week. This is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention ad awareness program. It was started in 1985 to honor Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Special Agent Camarena was tortured and murdered by drug traffickers while investigating in Mexico. After his passing, high school friend Henry Lozano worked with former U.S. Rep. Duncan L. Hunter to create Camarena Clubs to recognize and honor the agent.
President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan served as the first honorary chairpersons of the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988, which was coordinated by the National Family Partnership. The week helps raise awareness of living a drug-free life, and provides opportunities for families to discuss the harm of drugs with their children.
As part of the week, the DEA affords opportunities for members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn a special Red Ribbon Patch by participating in anti-drug-related activities. Scouts earn points toward this patch starting in the summer months and through mid-November.
Communities across the country hold rallies as part of the Red Ribbon Week awareness campaign. For example, DrugFree Idaho Inc. held its event at the Idaho Capitol Oct. 22, with students and state and local officials participating. Recognizing the trend of increasing marijuana use and acknowledging the potential harm to developing brains, they had this year’s theme as “What’s Your Natural High.”
Meanwhile, this year’s national theme is “Life is Your Journey, Travel Drug Free,” and participation can begin with making a pledge on an online portal.
Jill Wright, a community health consultant, states, “Make a commitment to your children during Red Ribbon Week. You can help them grow up in a safe, healthy and drug-free environment.” In Delaware, Ian Rogers, a high school sophomore, took to the airwaves to discuss Red Ribbon Week and the efforts to keep young people from using drugs.
The week of awareness to honor a fallen officer remains important to spread awareness about the harm and damage to lives that occurs with drug use. With the ever-increasing diversity of drugs and increasing addiction rates, prevention of initiation of use remains the most effective means of stemming the tide of these trends.