Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest national drug prevention program. It is presented during the last week of October every year. Young people pledge to live a drug free life and honor the sacrifice of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena who was kidnapped, horribly tortured and murdered by Mexican Drug traffickers while closing in on a multi-million marijuana and cocaine manufacturing and distribution pipeline.
The National Family Partnership, (NFP) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week in 1988. President and Mrs. Reagan were honorary co-chairs. Today, the NFP estimates that more than 80 million people participate in Red Ribbon Week each year. Schools, businesses, churches and community groups work with local media to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, encourage prevention, early intervention and treatment. School programs include pledges, guest speakers and visits from local law enforcement. The content of the message will depend on the age and maturity of the audience. Parents and guardians are asked to reinforce anti substance abuse values at home. Red Ribbon Week happens only once a year; peer pressure and availability are a fact of life.
Young school age children usually don’t understand the concept of illegal drugs. A simple message about not taking medicine without adult supervision or candy from strangers will be more relevant. Older children can understand the difference between drug store bought vitamin supplements, prescription drugs and independently distributed substances. (Be aware of prescription medicines and keep them out of reach.) Athletes can be susceptible to play thru pain demands or performance enhancing “vitamins”. An anti-smoking message is more effective if parents and extended family members don’t smoke. Alcohol use calls for a more subtle approach. Wine with dinner, a drink at a social event… each family has to set the tone. Do as I say not as I do can undermine the best intentions. An honest discussion may help the entire family.
If intervention is needed, start with a trusted professional such as the family doctor or pediatrician. Ask questions, just because the insurance company accepts the program doesn’t necessarily mean it has the best approach for you and your child. Both adults and teens attempt to self medicate stress and anxiety. A holistic approach will try to get at the root of the need to self medicate as well as the actual substance abuse. Youth Center at Northwest Community Hospital is a place to start, 847-618-2700.