This week is Red Ribbon Week, a national week of awareness in America about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. While it is true that Red Ribbon Week did not officially come into being until the mid-1980s, in a coincidental twist, President Richard Nixon signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act on October 27, 1970 – right in the middle of what we now recognize to be Red Ribbon Week, eighteen years before it was.
Citing drug abuse as a major cause of street crime, the President noted: “drugs are alarmingly on the increase in use among our young people. They are destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people all over America, not just of college age or young people in their twenties, but the great tragedy: The uses start even in junior high school, or even in the late grades.”

But the problem could and can be curbed. This bill provided for over 300 new drug enforcement agents, and new powers allotted to the Attorney General to prosecute drug dealers and go after all kinds of drugs prevalent in the 1970s, including barbiturates and amphetamines.

“I urge all who may be listening to this signing ceremony to remember that in every home in America, in every school in America, in every church in America, over the television and radio media of this country, in our newspapers, the message needs to get through, that this Nation faces a major crisis in terms of the increasing use of drugs, particularly among our young people,” RN warned.

As a high school senior, I can identify with the President’s concerns. Though the process of reducing drug availability was begun in the 1970s, most of the significant progress made since then has been in regard to drug awareness instead of the physical reduction of drugs. As a result, the trafficking industry grew and continues today as strong as ever (just look at all the recent violence in Mexico, for instance).

But during this Red Ribbon Week, let us remember the lessons put forth by President Nixon, Nancy Reagan, and other anti-drug crusaders; that stopping the rise in the use of drugs will “save the lives of hundreds of thousands of our young people who otherwise would become hooked on drugs and be physically, mentally, and morally destroyed.”

Photo: 24 Jul 1972, Washington, DC, USA — Washington, D.C.:  President Nixon received an optimistic report from his chief anti-drug law enforcement officials — that the number of arrests for drug violation had doubled in the past three years.  Myles Ambrose, director of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (right) showed Nixon this chart tabulating the number of drug violation arrests in fiscal 1972 at 16,144, compared to 8,465 in fiscal 1969.  At left is Eugene T. Rossides, assistant secy. of treasury for enforcement and operations.