The Tara Treatment Center Blog

The Roots of Red Ribbon Week: Appreciating Law Enforcement Efforts

The Red Ribbon Symbolizes Sacrifice

After his military service, Enrique Camarena became a police officer in his hometown and then a specialized illicit substance agent.  His family knew how passionately he cared, but worried that his determination may get him into trouble.  His mother tried to talk him out of it. “I’m only one person”, he told her, “but I want to make a difference”.

red ribbon week

Enrique quickly became an accomplished detective, uncovering the source of significant amounts of illicit substances.  “The other agents in the office were doing the same thing”, noted his superior, “but Camarena was just a little better at it. A little more motivated.”  Though outstanding among his peers, Camarena’s performance would get him killed.  Camarena was abducted, tortured, and killed by gangs for shutting down their drug operations. 

Red Ribbon Week began with Enrique Camarena, who willingly risked his life to save others from the disease of addiction. Most of us can’t imagine what officers see on a daily basis, and research is showing that first responders work to help others while sacrificing their own mental health. Let’s recognize the sacrifices made by other law enforcement officers everyday here in our community.

red ribbon addiction police

Decades Later

Red Ribbon Week began in the wake of Camarena’s death to annually bring awareness to the societal consequences of substance abuse.  Today, law enforcement officers across the country continue to fight the drug epidemic.

Lieutenant Matt Harris is the Public Relations Officer of the Columbus Police Department.  He reports, “Many officers see overdoses every day.  I’d estimate that most see several a week.  Along with drug-related violence, It creates a heavy emotional burden”.  

Lieutenant Matt Harris acts as the link between Columbus' officers and the public

Easing the Burden

To help officers shoulder this burden, Carmel has recently taken action to acknowledge and support our officers.  The city approved $25,000 in next year’s budget for police mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 25% of officers have thoughts of suicide at some point.  Mental illness creates a higher chance for physical health problems as well–Officers are 35 times more likely to have a cardiovascular disease.


Police aren’t the only ones making sacrifices to fight drug addiction.  Continue reading here to learn more about Red Ribbon Week, and hear an ER doctor explain the emotional toll of treating overdose victims.  

red ribbon week
Dr. Profeta treats overdoses frequently at St Vincent's Emergency Department