Joining the fight against drugs – The Guam Daily Post

“We want to make sure that we do what we can to stop the problem before it gets worse, that we’re taking positive steps to help the community. Prevention is important.”

– David Stubbs, special agent, Drug Enforcement Administration

Although Red Ribbon Week takes place toward the end of the month, Guam has taken the anti-drug campaign a step further by mobilizing different community partners and outreach events for the island to say “No” to drugs all October long, according to David Stubbs, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.

Stubbs and an armada of other community members could be seen spreading awareness in the goals of preventing drug usage, notably to Guam’s young people, during a community outreach event Oct. 7 at the Micronesia Mall.

“That’s the nice thing about Guam, it’s not a Red Ribbon Week. It’s a Red Ribbon month,” Stubbs said.

“We take the month of October to get the word out, talk to schools about saying ‘No’ to drugs, promote being drug-free and a positive influence to your friends and making positive contributions to your community.”

Red Ribbon Week is recognized nationally as a time to promote awareness of the destructive problems associated with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and to encourage prevention tactics across communities.

The commemoration was created in response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. The agent was undercover, investigating reported drug trafficking in Mexico until he was identified as an authority and subsequently tortured to death.

Since 1988, the country has worn red ribbons one week in October as a symbol of devotion to raising awareness of the destructive effects of drugs.

Getting ahead of the problem

The island kicked off Red Ribbon Month on Sept. 26 after Gov. Eddie Calvo signed an official proclamation for the campaign during a ceremony at Upi Elementary School in Yigo.

Every week since then, the DEA and other partners have visited Guam schools presenting under the theme of “The future is key, so stay drug free.”

“Drug violence doesn’t just happen in other places. It’s happened here on Guam also. Things can happen here just like they can happen anywhere else,” Stubbs said.

“We want to make sure that we do what we can to stop the problem before it gets worse, that we’re taking positive steps to help the community. Prevention is important.”

According to Therese Arriola, executive director of Sanctuary Incorporated, prioritizing the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse in the community can ultimately outweigh the need for intervention in troubled youth.

“We need to have the foresight as a community to prioritize funds for prevention, so that the budget that is normally funding intervention can eventually decrease. At this point, we need to do both,” Arriola said.

Sanctuary Inc. is a community-based, nonprofit organization that exists to promote the quality of life for Guam’s youth, according to their mission. They are also a partner of Guam’s Red Ribbon Committee.

‘Life is a natural high’

Within the span of her two years as Sanctuary executive, Arriola said she has seen an influx of youth abusing drugs, most notably through homemade drugs like spice (synthetic marijuana) and prescription pills. Marijuana and alcohol usage is still on the rise, as well, she added.

“We’re seeing a lot of kids, for whatever reason, one way or another, needing to find relief,” Arriola said. “The community needs to think about this deeper. Why do our kids constantly have to find remedies for relief?”

“Something is going on in the family structure, the community structure, that is leading them to want to find an escape.”

Sanctuary hosts the region’s sole resident drug treatment facility for youth ages 12 to 18 on island. Partnering with the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, their goal is often to counter drug abuse with prevention outreach and promoting a healthy, happy life, drug-free.

“We believe in saying ‘No’ to drugs. Youth should enjoy their lives without drugs because life is a natural high. You don’t need to get high on anything else,” Arriola said.

“Our youth today need to find the strength to realize that life is wonderful. Life is beautiful when you’re not on drugs.”

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