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By Diane Braun, Project Manager, Oct. 24, 2018 –

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people each year.  This year’s event will take place October 23-31.

According to the Red Ribbon Week website, this event is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs.

Red Ribbon Week was started when drug traffickers in Mexico City murdered DEA agent Kiki Camarena in 1985.  This began the continuing tradition of displaying red ribbons as a symbol of intolerance toward the use of drugs.  The mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a Drug-Free America.

National Family Partnership is the sponsor of this annual celebration. They are helping citizens across the country come together to keep children, families and communities safe, healthy and drug-free, through parent training, networking and sponsoring events.

With over thirty annual events having taken place, you might ask, “Is Red Ribbon Week effective?”  According to Peggy Sapp, President of National Family Partnership, consider the following:

  • Red Ribbon Week is an environmental strategy, which means it doesn’t just affect a small group but usually goes beyond schools, churches and other groups into the broader community.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to be an awareness campaign that gets information to the general public about the dangers of drug use.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to get people talking to other people and working on activities that will help rebuild a sense of community and common purpose.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to help parents and schools deliver an effective drug prevention curriculum.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to create critical mass, which is necessary to reduce destructive social norms/behaviors and promote positive social norms/behaviors.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to be positive and fun, two things necessary to maintain good mental health.

Schools can benefit from curriculum available on the official Red Ribbon Week website, www.redribbon.org.  Incorporating substance use prevention education into daily classes such as health is an ideal way to bring awareness to students and promote prevention.

Parents should also access the website for great ideas about talking to children of any age about the dangers of substance use.  Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t; however, only 25 percent of teens report having these conversations.

Alcohol and other forms of drug abuse in this country have reached epidemic stages, and it is imperative that visible, unified prevention education efforts by community members be launched to eliminate the demand for drugs.

Please join Youth First this week as we promote the importance of prevention and educating our children, families and communities about the dangers of substance use.

By Salita Brown, Oct. 19, 2018 –

Addiction…overdose…death…all of these serious consequences have become synonymous with opioid use.

Opioids are very powerful drugs that have received a lot of news coverage lately. However, through all of the coverage, the reason opioids have become so addictive has gotten lost.

So, what exactly is an opioid?  Why are people addicted to them?  According to the Mayo Clinic website, mayoclinic.org, an opioid is a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in your brain cells, meaning an opioid can temporarily control your brain.

Opioids trigger the brain to release a signal that lessons your perception of pain and increases your feeling of pleasure. This feeling of pleasure, though temporary, has led to repeated overdoses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently reports 46 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

This crisis is one that everyone can help combat, even if you think it does not affect you directly. One of the easiest methods to combat this problem is proper disposal of unused medications.  All unused/expired medications become quite dangerous when found by the wrong person. This is especially dangerous when medications find their way into the hands of a child.

In order to help prevent this issue, it’s best to get those medications out of your home. You might think you need to go to your medicine cabinet and flush those unused pills down the toilet or maybe throw them directly into the trash. You are not entirely wrong, but both of those disposal methods require a couple more steps in order to be effective.

So, what exactly are the proper means for disposing of your expired or unused prescriptions? One option is to bring the unwanted medications to an authorized collector.  An authorized collector will simply take the medications, with no questions asked, and properly dispose of them for you. To find an authorized collector near you, please call the DEA Office of Diversion Control at 1-800-882-9539.

Another option is to flush your unused medications down the toilet. However, before you rush to flush all of your medications, please be advised that not all medicines are recommended for flushing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of medicines approved for flushing that can be found by checking their website at www.fda.gov.  If your medication is not on the approved list, you can always take it to an authorized collector or utilize the next option.

The final disposal option is to throw the medications in the trash. Proper trash disposal requires that the medication is mixed, not crushed, with an inedible substance and closed firmly in a container or plastic bag. If you choose to dispose of the medication in its original pill bottle, it is recommended to scratch off or remove any identifying labels.

Now that you know the proper method for disposing of those unused prescriptions, take time to rid your home of them in a safe manner.  Proper prescription medication disposal may not solve the opioid crisis, but it certainly will not worsen it. If anything, safe-proofing your home for your loved ones is an excellent reason to properly dispose of unused/expired medications.

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, and Jenna Bowman, Courier & Press, October 24, 2017 –

Every fall communities and schools around the country honor a week known as Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership.

Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 to raise awareness of drug abuse and drug-related violence.  Although Red Ribbon Week is now a popular time for theme days and assemblies in schools, it started due to a tragic event.

Enrique “Kiki” Camarena joined the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because he wanted to make a positive impact in the fight against drug abuse.  Unfortunately, in 1985 Agent Camarena was taken and brutally murdered by drug traffickers.

In response to Agent Camarena’s death, people in his community began to wear red ribbons to honor his memory.  Because of anger and concern about what drug involvement was doing to their community, groups gathered to raise awareness, and from these groups Red Ribbon Week was born.

Not only does Red Ribbon Week honor the memory of Agent Kiki Camarena, it continues the battle against illegal drugs and helps educate communities about the associated dangers.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention and awareness program in the United States.  Raising awareness on this topic is increasingly important, because studies now show that 10.6 percent of youths 12-17 years old are currently using some form of illicit drugs.

This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated from October 23-31.  The theme for this year is “Your future is key, so stay drug free.”  The theme encourages youths to think about where they want to be in life and how staying drug free will help achieve their goals.

The purpose of the week is to educate and get the conversation started on how to say no to drugs.  Participating in Red Ribbon Week activities provides the opportunity for students to join together and take a stand against illegal substances.

A dedicated group of students at Evansville’s Thompkins Middle School has worked hard to plan a great Red Ribbon Week.  They will be sharing statistics during the morning announcements to educate their schoolmates on the dangers of drug abuse.  This group helped find the information and statistics for this article. They did an amazing job planning the week!

Thompkins Middle School will look slightly different during this week because the students will be dressing up for theme days to actively demonstrate that they are saying no to drugs.  Thompkins will kick off the week with a “We are Head- to-Toe Drug Free” theme.  Later in the week, students will be dressing up in Hawaiian-themed clothing for “Lei off Drugs” day!

Thompkins Middle School will not be the only school getting into the spirit for Red Ribbon Week, so be on the lookout for activities at a school near you!