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Red Ribbon Weeks fights drug abuse
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This week is Red Ribbon Week and it is a great time to talk with children, family or friends about drugs and how drug use (alcohol, inhalants, tobacco and illegal drugs) can destroy a person’s future and impact others around them.
The use of one drug, such as tobacco or marijuana, often leads to a person using other drugs. This is known as the gateway effect. The best way to stop this cycle is to prevent it from happening in the first place, so learning “to just say no” is a very important lesson for everyone.  
Today, millions of Americans celebrate Red Ribbon Week as a way to bring awareness to the dangers and consequences of drug use and to honor Enrique Camarena, an undercover drug enforcement agent.
Camarena moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 9 years old and dreamed of acquiring an education and working to protect people from illegal drugs. He earned a degree in criminal justice, served in the Marine Corps and became a firefighter and police officer before joining the Drug Enforcement Administration.
He worked hard in an attempt to prevent drugs from coming into this country. While working undercover in Mexico, Camarena was discovered, kidnapped, tortured and killed.
To honor Camarena, his family and neighbors wore red ribbons. As his story spread, people nationwide began wearing red ribbons in his memory as well.
The purpose of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment toward the creation of a drug-free America. Red Ribbon Week offers an excellent opportunity to show intolerance toward the use of drugs.
Unfortunately, children are often the target for street-drug sellers. They make easy “marks’ because of their inexperience and immaturity.
There are five basic reasons that 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.  
All of these reasons for using drugs can be prevented by a caring adult. 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 or be involved with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
• Set an example: Neighbors, teachers and family must all join together to set a positive example.
• Strengthen: Help children develop strong values.  Strengthen children’s sense of being a part of something greater.
• Assure: Assure children that they are not alone in dealing with peer pressure.
• Encourage: Encourage healthy, creative activities and encourage children to talk about their hopes and dreams. Give children solid guidance by setting boundaries and clear and understandable “no drug use” expectations.
• Get involved: Team up with other parents. Get involved with school or after school activities as much as you can.

Red Ribbon Week is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs. The theme this year is “Look at Me — I’m Drug Free.”
Show your personal commitment to a drug-free lifestyle through the symbol of the Red Ribbon the week of Oct. 23-31.
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