CONTACT Make it a Red Ribbon Week! - Dr. Christian Thurstone

It’s exciting to see the red ribbons unfurling nationwide!

Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by the National Family Partnership since 1988, aims to educate youth about the perils of drug use — and to encourage their participation in drug-use-prevention activities.

But make no mistake: this national, week-long observance, held this year Oct. 23-31, serves as an important reminder for adults, too. Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are much less likely to use drugs than children whose parents don’t engage them in these conversations — yet only a quarter of American teens report having these discussions with their folks.

WaylandCares, a volunteer, community coalition dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of youth in Wayland, Mass., recently adapted a 2006 guide produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to help parents navigate these important talks with their kids. It’s worth a read.

Then, see how high school students in Garner, Iowa, have spearheaded an array of Red Ribbon activities on their campus. I’m always encouraged and inspired by young people who reject the messages and marketing of the illegal drugs relentlessly aimed at them.

I also hope you’ll review the history of the Red Ribbon Campaign, which is dedicated to the memory of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Enrique Camarena, who was only 37 when he was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985. Friends and neighbors honored his brave efforts to strengthen and improve communities by wearing red, satin badges. Their tributes are now the symbol of this important national campaign.

“I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference,” Camarena told his mother when she tried to talk him out of joining the DEA.

He did, indeed.

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of about three dozen physicians in the United States who are board certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is medical director of one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-treatment programs and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program.

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