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Mark Red Ribbon Week, fight drug use
Health advice
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“I am drug free” is the theme for this year’s Red Ribbon Week, which is Oct. 23-31. The Red Ribbon Campaign, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is the perfect opportunity for community members to unite and take a stand against substance abuse by wearing a red ribbon.
The Red Ribbon Campaign’s mission is to present a unified and visible commitment in the creation of a drug-free America. The campaign was started when drug traffickers in Mexico City murdered DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. To honor the agent, people began to display red ribbons as a symbol of intolerance toward drug use.
Camarena moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 9 years old. His family members say he dreamed of getting a good education and working to protect people from illegal drugs. He put himself through school, earned a degree in criminal justice, served in the Marine Corps and became a fireman and a policeman. He then joined the Drug Enforcement Administration because he wanted to prevent drugs from coming into the United States. While working undercover in Mexico, Camarena was discovered, kidnapped, tortured and killed.
To honor the agent, his family wore red ribbons and as his story spread, people nationwide began to wear red ribbons in his memory. Today, millions of Americans celebrate Red Ribbon Week to bring awareness to the dangers and consequences of drug use and to honor Camarena.
Red Ribbon Week is a great time to talk with children, family members and friends about drugs and how drug use — including tobacco, alcohol and inhalants — can destroy someone’s future and hurt others. The use of one drug, such as tobacco or marijuana, often leads to using other drugs. This is known as the gateway effect. The best way to stop this cycle is to prevent it from happening.
Studies have shown, there are five reasons why children use drugs: to relax and feel good, to take risks and rebel, to satisfy curiosity, to fit in and belong, and to feel grown up. However, caring adults can stop children from using drugs and help them make healthy choices. Here are some suggestions to ensure children do not feel the need to use drugs:
• Begin early: Start talking with children while they are in grade school about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug use.
• Listen: Learn to listen to children and to understand their concerns.
• Nurture: Help children feel good about themselves.
• Praise: Praise children for having the courage, strength and determination not to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
• Set an example: Neighbors, teachers and family members must join together to set positive examples.
• Strengthen: Help children develop strong values. Strengthen your child’s sense of being a part of something greater.
• Assure: Assure children they are not alone in dealing with peer pressure.
• Encourage: Encourage healthy, creative activities and urge children to talk about their hopes and dreams. Give children solid guidance by setting boundaries and clear no use expectations.
• Get Involved: Team up with other parents. Get involved with school or after school activities as much as you can.
The National Red Ribbon Campaign is now the oldest and largest drug-prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people each year during Red Ribbon Week. Show your personal commitment to a drug-free lifestyle by wearing a Red Ribbon this week.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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