Tag Archives: drug abuse

The History Behind Red Ribbon Week

Every year America’s schools celebrate Red Ribbon Week during the last week of October. Students know that Red Ribbon Week is about raising awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, but many students might not know the story behind the red ribbons.

“Kiki” Camarena was born on July 26, 1947. He was a Mexican immigrant to California, and he joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. After he was discharged, Kiki worked as a fireman, a police investigator, and a narcotics investigator in California.

As a result of his concern over the growing drug problem in the United States, he became a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1974. In July of 1981, Kiki was assigned to a DEA office in Mexico. His mission was to find those who were dealing illegal substances and help stop the drug trade across the Mexican border into the United States. During his work, Kiki discovered leads into a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline.

On February 7, 1985, Kiki was on his way to meet his wife for lunch when he was kidnapped in broad daylight, then brutally tortured and murdered. His body was not found until March 5, 1985. Many organized crime figures from Mexico were arrested for his torture and murder.

Reflecting on his life and work, his family remembers something Kiki once said: “Even if I’m only one person, I can make a difference.”

Not long after Kiki’s death, a congressman and one of Kiki’s friends from high school established a club in Kiki’s hometown where the members promised to lead a drug-free life and wore a red ribbon to honor those who have been lost in the war against drugs.

This program gained popularity and in 1988, the grass roots campaign went national with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons. Since then, the Red Ribbon campaign has grown and is now celebrated in most American schools.

When you see a student wearing a red ribbon, ask if they know Kiki’s story and the reasons behind Red Ribbon Week.

Hong Kong School Helps Young Drug Addicts Recover

The use of psychotropic drugs has soared in Hong Kong in recent years, especially among adolescents. There were 8,306 reported psychotropic drug users in 2008 in Hong Kong—up from 6,335 in 2005.

Most users primarily abuse ketamine, an animal tranquilizer that is produced illegally in China and Hong Kong. In addition, 20 percent of Hong Kong’s secondary schools have sought help on how to manage students with drug problems.

That’s where Zheng Sheng College steps in, a small school in Hong Kong with 120 students. Principal Alman Chan, who is fighting for a bigger space for the school, believes that education is the only way to get young people back on track.

“We have so many young people involved in drugs in Hong Kong. They have to be educated … schooling gives them a chance at life, empowering them, reconnecting them with society. Schooling creates a new status, they are students, not inmates,” Chan said.

After groups of students were found dazed and unconscious at beaches and in parks, the drug problem gained more attention. Experts think the worsening drug problem in Hong Kong may be due to easily accessibility, peer pressure, and aimlessness among young students.

Kwan Wang-yuen said his schoolmates gave ketamine to him and that he did it to socialize with his friends. He had his first encounter with drugs at age 12. Now 14 and a student at Zheng Sheng, he hopes to finish school and get a job.

Ng Ka-chun was 13 when his friends introduced him to marijuana, psychotropic drugs, and ecstasy. “I remember thinking (marijuana) wasn’t any different from a cigarette and then I tried ecstasy and ketamine. It was the same logic, they were quite the same as marijuana, they seemed less serious than heroin,” said Ng, who was sent to Zheng Sheng and a rehabilitation center after he was caught stealing.

He has learned to play the piano and guitar at the school, and is adept at handling audio-visual equipment. He hopes to finish school in two years and then become a teacher.

Chan says drug addicts tend to not have a purpose in life and that narcotics serve as a buffer. “Before, people just wanted to get rich. Now, they hide in their homes, they don’t need to go out, they order a pizza and mom pays for it. They have no direction…and drugs help them define their meaning in life,” he said.

But this can change with education, he said. “The ‘student’ status by itself is social capital. It gives them so much more to work for. That is so important for young people.”