Red Ribbon Week, Impacts of Drugs On Teens

By: Allison Hurley

Red Ribbon Week is observed in the last week of October every year. Its purpose is to raise awareness on the impact of drugs and addiction in teens and provide support for those in need. The week has a deep history and has impacted millions across the country, since it began in 1988. 

In 1985, Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was investigating in Mexico when he was murdered by drug traffickers. This brought a wave of anger and sadness over America. Many people, mostly parents, began wearing red ribbons to raise awareness of the tragedies caused by drugs all across the nation. In 1988 the National Family Partnership sponsored the nation’s first Red Ribbon Week. Other organizations such as Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) educate students on the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The last week of October is dedicated to providing awareness and support to children and teens impacted by substance abuse. 

Substance abuse in youth becomes a more pressing issue with each passing year. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, drug use in 8th graders has increased 61% since 2016. Additionally, 86% of teenagers know someone who smokes, vapes, drinks, or uses drugs during the school day. 2.08 million 12-17 year olds have reported using drugs in the last month. In contrast, 7.1 million 12-20 year olds reported drinking alcohol in the last month. A horrifying reality of it all is that as substance abuse in teens increases, so does the number of overdoses. In 2019, 4,777 people aged 15-24 died of an overdose, a dramatic increase from 1,240 in 1999. One factor in these deaths is the opioid epidemic. Since the start of the 21st Century opioid-related overdose deaths have increased up to 30.7% each year. Moreover, opioid related deaths increased 18% during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the boost in stress the virus caused. 

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