Celebrating Red Ribbon Week 2020 in Pennsylvania

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

Do you remember Red Ribbon Week when you were in school? Maybe it wasn’t until your child was in grade school that the drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse campaign came to be. Every October, public and private schools across the United States dedicate a week to teaching students about the threat of drugs.

Many schools pass out the characteristic Red Ribbon Week wristbands. Some restaurants and stores even offer discounts or free items to students who wear them. Schools often have dress-up days to draw more students’ attention to the problems they’re discussing.

Red Ribbon Week begins on October 23 every year. It’s a nationwide drug abuse awareness and prevention campaign organized by National Family Partnership. Red Ribbon Week is devoted to encouraging students early on to “Just say no!” to drugs, hoping to slow the detrimental effects of substances on the nation.

Despite efforts to curb drug and alcohol use among students, it seems kids are still intrigued by substances. Illicit substance use among 12- to 27-year-olds has been on the rise each year since 2016. More than 17% of adolescents in this age range have used illicit drugs in the past year.

The strange times of 2020 have many parents and officials worried about substance and alcohol use among adolescents, too. Red Ribbon Week is possibly more necessary now than ever before. Even though this year looks different, schools across the country are acknowledging and celebrating the importance of living drug-free!

History of Red Ribbon Week

National Family Partnership sponsored the country’s first Red Ribbon Week in October 1988. The idea for Red Ribbon Week started a few years earlier, though, in 1985. It began as a public reaction to the awful murder of Enrique (Kiki) Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration Agent.

Camarena was a driven, hard-working family man who felt called to help people. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and then became a police officer. He then joined the DEA in 1974, telling his mother, “I’m only one person but I want to make a difference.”

After assisting the DEA in various locations for a decade, he was transferred to Guadalajara, Mexico in 1980. Camarena was sent to investigate the alarming surge in drug trafficking in Mexico around the time. Well-respected by his fellow agents, Camarena’s work led to the discovery of a 200-acre marijuana plantation in 1984.

Unfortunately, high-level traffickers had their eyes on Camarena. He was abducted while on his way to meet with his wife for lunch on February 7, 1985. His abductors tortured and then murdered him, leaving his body in a rural area nearby.

Camarena’s body was discovered almost a month later on March 5, 1985. His brutal death enraged communities across the country. People started wearing red ribbons to honor the sacrifice Camarena made trying to stop the spread of drug use.

Red Ribbon Week in Pennsylvania

National Family Partnership officially recognized Red Ribbon Week as a nationwide campaign in 1988. Today, every October 23rd to 31st marks the recognition and celebration of Camarena’s work. Though Red Ribbon Week had a gut-wrenching beginning, Camarena has made a far bigger difference than he might have imagined.

Drug and Alcohol Use in the United States

It’s impossible to deny the impact that drug and alcohol abuse have on the United States today. Frequent, casual alcohol abuse rates are still high among a quarter of the population. About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related fatalities every year in the United States. This makes alcohol the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country.

Drug use is no different. The opioid epidemic plaguing the country shows little sign of slowing down. Nearly 450,000 people have lost their lives to an opioid overdose between 1999 and 2018. The 1990s were racked by prescription opioids and 2010 saw a rise in heroin overdoses. Synthetic opioids caused the most recent and drastic spike that started in 2013.