Photo of a previous red ribbon week.
Red Ribbon Week encourages refraining from drug use. Photo by U.S. Department of Defense

Red Ribbon Week is the last week of October and has been since 1988. The point of Red Ribbon Week is to bring awareness to abuse of illicit drugs. Some argue, though, that Red Ribbon Week and similar events do not decrease drug abuse.

The history behind Red Ribbon Week

It was 1985 when the seeds of Red Ribbon were planted. It started because Enrique Camarena was working in Mexico as an undercover DEA and was killed. National Red Ribbon Week was started by Nancy Reagan and the National Family Partnership in 1988. Most think of the week as a way to “show intolerance for illicit drug use.” Alcohol abuse awareness is also a common theme during this week.

Planning activities for Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week is celebrated in schools, churches and many communities. Organizations feature activities and events to raise awareness of the dangerous effects of illegal drugs. For a single day, or the whole week, many schools encourage wearing red ribbons. Children and teens are asked to commit to never taking drugs. This is popularly called taking “a drug-free pledge.”

How to make prevention work

Red Ribbon Week this year happens during an interesting time in the drug history of the United States. The California Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act is up for a vote in California just one week after Red Ribbon Week. There are many prevention programs, like D.A.R.E., that are meant to stop abuse. Many sources indicate these programs are ineffective and a waste of money. Some even think they actually making drug abuse worse instead of helping. Some question whether Red Ribbon Week or other awareness programs are bringing attention to a symptom, rather than the problem itself. The Unites States Surgeon General says the programs “do not work” in reference to D.A.R.E. and other such programs and pledges.



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