Red Ribbon Week for Drug-Free America

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Red Ribbon Campaign

The Red Ribbon Campaign, founded by the National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, advocates for youth education in communities and encourages youth participation in drug-free activities. The Red Ribbon Campaign is a weeklong campaign in October that began in 1985 and helps parents, teachers, and community leaders to speak to the youth about the dangers of drugs. This year’s Red Ribbon Week takes place October 23-31, and the theme is speaking out about healthy choices. Making good choices and having an active community are two critical factors in staying drug-free, but what happens when individuals engage in unhealthy behaviors and become addicted to drugs? As a society, we can unite to raise awareness to prevent drug abuse, but we also must come together to teach about taking healthy steps in recovery. Eliminating the stigma associated with entering drug detox and rehab is an essential step to raising awareness during Red Ribbon Week. 

Detoxification: The first step in the recovery process

Detoxification, better known as detox, involves eliminating any drugs from the body. Detoxification is the first stage in the treatment process and is usually the most challenging because of the withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the substance of abuse, withdrawal symptoms can be minor or life-threatening but are usually uncomfortable for the individual. Many individuals relapse during this stage because they cannot tolerate the withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Medication can be given to reduce the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. These medications must be given in a supervised treatment setting, and therefore the individual must enter a professional detoxification program rather than detoxing at home. 

How long is detoxification?

Depending on the drug, and the length and severity of the addiction, the detoxification process can take anywhere from three to seven days. Once the individual undergoes detox and is no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms, he/she can enter formal rehab treatment to learn about healthy coping skills, underlying triggers, and engage in multiple types of psychotherapy approaches. 

Physical side effects in drug detoxification

Whether it is alcohol, prescription medications, opioids, or other addictive drugs, ongoing drug use will eventually result in physical dependence. In the absence of these drugs, the body will undergo withdrawal symptoms. The following are typical withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Racing heart
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Headache


Are medications given during detoxification?

Medications are often given during detoxification to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Fluids, electrolytes, and vitamins are usually administered because the body is often dehydrated and depleted of nutrients and vitamins. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a type of detoxification and rehabilitation treatment that uses prescription medications to help curb withdrawal symptoms. MAT is most commonly used for alcohol and opioid abuse. The majority of these medications are given in the acute phase to alleviate the physical pain associated with withdrawals. Some of the same medications can be provided in the long-term to curb future cravings to prevent relapse. 

Focusing on your recovery in detox

The primary goal in detox is to withdrawal in a comfortable setting so you can have a clear mind and body when you enter psychotherapy. As a result, cell phones and electronics are safely stored away to maintain your focus on your recovery. It is encouraged that you spend time with your treatment team and other clients in the facility instead of focusing on aspects that are outside of your current environment. You will be provided with well-balanced meals, opportunities to meditate, and time to engage with your treatment team. This process is meant to be welcoming and empowering, rather than isolating. Although you may experience physical and mental challenges during detoxification, this process is necessary to help you reach your recovery goals. 

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