This week, students and schools across the country observed Red Ribbon Week. The week seeks to bring awareness to students and administrators about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 as a campaign by the National Family Partnership. The grassroots organization, originally known as the National Federation of Parents for a Drug Free Youth, sponsors Red Ribbon Week each October from the 23 through 31. The movement began as a tribute to slain DEA agent Enrique Camarena who was murdered in 1985. The red ribbon became a symbol of the far-reaching effects of drugs in communities. The movement, lead by parents and youth across the United States, eventually became what it is today.
The CDC estimates that approximately 4,300 individuals under the age of 21 die from underage-drinking related causes each year. This number includes direct causes such as alcohol poisoning and injuring oneself while driving intoxicated as well as indirect causes of death, such as being struck by an intoxicated underage driver. This number doesn’t include the many events that can lead to physical and psychological trauma but not death—including physical altercations, risk taking, and being the perpetrator or victim of a sexual assault while intoxicated.
Unfortunately, alcohol isn’t the only drug that has far-reaching negative effects. Other drugs popular amongst youth include marijuana and prescription drugs. Just as alcohol can take or forever alter a young person’s life, so too can marijuana and the abuse of prescription drugs. Many of the same consequences that are tied to alcohol can occur with marijuana and prescription drugs—although prescription drugs carry the added danger of the possibility of accidental overdose.
The theme for the 2016 National Red Ribbon Week is #YOUONLYLIVEONCE to encourage students to think about the fact that they only have one life to live and the use of alcohol and other drugs can snuff out or alter that life in an instant. It is the philosophy of the National Family Partnership, drawn from the words of Camarena himself, that “one person [can] make a difference.”