Every October, people across the country mobilize during Red Ribbon Week to promote the importance of drug-free living. And this year, there is good news to celebrate. SAMHSA’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health tells us that the percentage of 12-to-17-year-olds who drink alcohol, use tobacco, or abuse certain drugs is dropping. Of course, our work isn’t done. An estimated 27 million Americans aged 12 or older currently use illicit drugs, and marijuana use continues to rise.
We can use observances like Red Ribbon Week to highlight the progress we’ve made and show the positive things we can do for ourselves and our communities when we work together. This year’s theme is “Respect Yourself: Be Drug-Free,” and it speaks to the fact that personal health and community well-being are the responsibility of each and every one of us.
In our work, we have both seen the toll that drugs take on our bodies, families, and society. Research shows that taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction. However, young people are especially at risk because the earlier drug use begins, the more likely it is to lead to serious abuse. Drugs also affect the body in other dangerous ways, causing impaired judgment and motor control, hallucinations and negative emotions, severe changes in breathing or heart rate, and even death.
The negative consequences of drug use and trafficking extend beyond their health effects. Numerous studies point to the link between drugs and violence, and drug production and manufacturing also damage the environment, including forests, rivers, streams, and wildlife both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.
The bottom line? Get involved and take action, no matter how big or small. It doesn’t take a superhero to save lives and prevent the consequences of drug use and abuse – it takes positive actions on the part of everyday people like you and me. Sign the pledge and spread the message! Visit the Red Ribbon online toolbox to find more resources and find out the many ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week and promote living a drug free life.