Every October, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, most public schools, and a number of other agencies and law enforcement groups support Red Ribbon Week. It is a time when the youth of the nation are encouraged to live a life that is drug-free. During this time, support for the minimum drinking age is also reinforced as being 21 so that injuries and deaths from underage drinking can stop.
Red Ribbon Week started in a way to memorialize the work of Special Agent Kiki Camarena, who was an 11 year DEA veteran who was kidnapped, tortured, and then murdered by drug traffickers.
Red Ribbon Week
The first events that would eventually become the foundation of Red Ribbon Week were held in 1985 and initially called Camarena Clubs. As the coordinated events began to take hold, the first celebrations of this event were held in California. Since then, it has become a unified week every October to help make sure everyone knows the dangers of trying drugs even once.
- Current estimates show that more than 80 million people participate in Red Ribbon events each year.
- The first national Red Ribbon Week was coordinated in 1988 with the help of the White House.
- Almost every public school in the United States supports Red Ribbon Week in some way during the last week of October.
The story of Special Agent Camarena is absolutely tragic. He was going to meet his wife for lunch when 5 men came up beside him and shoved him into a car. A month later, his body was found in a shallow grave, the evidence of torture very apparent. Although a terrible incident, a lot of good has come out in the memory of Camarena. With millions of kids over the last generation pledging to live a drug-free lifestyle and avoid drinking before the age of 21, his work will continue to live on as long as there is a Red Ribbon Week happening somewhere in the world each year.
Why Do We Need to Have Red Ribbon Week?
- For kids between the ages of 12-17, 10.6% of them admit to being current illicit drug users.
- More than 13% of adults who have a dependency on an illegal drug first tried marijuana for the first time at 14 or younger.
- High school seniors are the most likely age demographic to have used illicit drugs within the past 30 days.
- About 10% of high school seniors also report using amphetamines at least once over the course of a year.
- Early substance abuse increases the likelihood of a person developing psychiatric disorders when they are in their 20s.
- For teens who use drugs, they have a 1 in 4 chance of developing an alcohol dependency when they become an adult.
- Kids who run away from home at least once are more likely to have tried or regularly used alcohol, drugs, or both.
- It isn’t cocaine or pot that teens are worried about. 2 out of 3 students say that smoking cigarettes is the greatest risk they can take.
- Almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs.
With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, there is a strong possibility that these usage statistics are going to change over the coming years. Although using pot is still illegal for minors, the prevalence and saturation of the drug in these two states will make it a lot easier to obtain. There is a good chance that the statistics for youth pot use could be comparable to underage drinking statistics. The good news is that it doesn’t take much for kids to decide not to take drugs. Events like Red Ribbon Week and a strong disapproval of illegal drugs by parents immediately lowers the chances of a child trying a drug for the first time.
Every Child Demographic Is Affected By Drug Use
- Participating in religious or spiritual activities has a strong correlation with a reduction, but not elimination, of drug use and abuse.
- Kids between the ages of 12-17 who attend at least 2 religious youth activities per month are less likely to use drugs than other kids in the last 30 days.
- On average, about 4 million kids admit to taking prescription painkillers and another 2.3 million kids are affected by Ritalin, even when it is legally prescribed.
- Teens who are exposed to campaigns like Red Ribbon Week are 30% less likely to use drugs within the past month.
- Drug abuse costs the United States $600 billion annually, but only 33% of that cost is actually due to illegal drugs.
- In 2009, 1 out of every 3 drivers who are fatally injured in a traffic accident tested positive for drugs.
- Every day, 2,500 students will abuse a pain reliever in some way and the most common access point isn’t from their friends, but from drugs that are found at home.
- About 2.6 million people will abuse drugs for the first time in the United States annually.
- Of the 1.4 million drug-related emergency room admissions in 2005, 598,542 were associated with abuse of pharmaceuticals alone or with other drugs.
Although street drugs are often the emphasis of a Red Ribbon Week campaign, the dangers of abusing prescription drugs cannot be overshadowed. These drugs are often left unsecured in a bathroom cabinet. Abusing these prescription drugs accounts for 45% of the deaths that are due to overdoses every year. In comparison, all street drugs combined make up 39% of the total overdose fatalities. Some of these statistics may seem disturbing, but there is some good news to report from campaigns like this one. The average age of first using an illegal drug for the first time has risen from 13 to 14 over the past decade.