Substance Abuse Prevention – October 1 marks the beginning of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month – a national celebration coordinated by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
Unfortunately, it’s an event that’s easy to gloss over or dismiss because people often don’t think substance abuse affects them. But here are the numbers.
The Scope of Substance Abuse in America
Substance abuse, which includes inappropriate substance use, such as underage drinking and the non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, significantly affects the health and well-being of our nation’s youth and people of all ages:
- An estimated 10 million people aged 12 to 20 report drinking alcohol during the past month.1 To put that in perspective, there are more Americans who have engaged in underage drinking than the number of people who live in the state of Michigan.2
- Approximately 23 million Americans—roughly the population of Australia—are current illicit drug users.3-4 Marijuana use and non-medical use of prescription medications are the most common types of drug use in America.
- Almost 18 million Americans are classified with alcohol dependence or abuse.5
Not only are these numbers significant but so are the numbers of people who are on the receiving end of a person’s substance abuse behaviors – the drunken arguments; physical fights; verbal, physical or emotional abuse; driving while impaired; engaging in risky sexual behaviors; blackouts… These numbers are the one in four children and the over half of American adults who experience secondhand drinking or secondhand drugging – the impacts, the outcomes, the fall-out of being on the receiving end of a person’s substance abuse behaviors.
And then we add to these numbers all of the people who interact with the person with a substance abuse problem or the person coping with secondhand drinking, secondhand drugging – the fellow students, co-workers, the person seriously injured in a car accident caused by an impaired driver, the victims of drug-related crimes, the tax-payer whose tax dollars contribute to paying the costs of incarceration of the individual convicted of a drug-related crime. This ripple effect widens as we think of the family members and friends of all these individuals whose lives are also impacted — the grieving relatives and friends whose loved one was killed by a drunk driver, for example. While specific to addiction (which always starts with substance abuse), this article addresses this ripple effect, “Addiction Impacts Lives of Millions and Costs Billions.”
Substance Abuse is NOT Addiction
Substance abuse is not addiction (other names for “addiction” include: alcohol dependence, alcoholism, drug addiction, drug dependence).
Substance abuse is abuse. It is the kind of substance misuse — whether that’s repeatedly engaging in “at-risk” drinking, or it’s taking prescription drugs without a prescription or in excess of the prescribed dosage, or it’s using illegal drugs – it is the kind of substance misuse that changes the way a person’s brain works. And it is these brain changes that change a person’s behaviors. Why should we care?
We should care for three reasons:
- to help the person with the substance abuse problem understand the slippery slope down which they are headed given substance abuse can lead to addiction (dependence) and addiction is a developmental, chronic, often relapsing brain disease.
- to help others not have to suffer secondhand drinking or secondhand drugging.
- to help the person abusing a substance do what they can to change substance use to fall within “normal” or “low-risk” levels – namely “low-risk” drinking limits or prescription drug use in accordance with the prescription and no illegal drug use in any quantity. And for some, “normal” or “low-risk” levels mean none at all – such as is the case for the developing teen brain, the pregnant woman or the person taking someone else’s prescribed pain medications.
Stopping substance abuse before it begins can increase a person’s chances of living a longer, healthier, and more productive life. Stopping substance abuse before it begins can increase the chances for the loved ones in their life (the spouses, parents, children, siblings) not to have to experience the physical and emotional consequences caused by secondhand drinking / drugging. The graphic below shows the impacts of secondhand drinking.
To help with your participation in celebrating National Prevention Month, SAMHSA has provided the following Prevention Resources
For Coalitions and Professionals
- Communities That Care (CTC) Curriculum – a training program that equips communities with information to create a public health prevention approach to target youth problem behaviors such as violence, delinquency, and substance abuse. Includes PowerPoint slides that cover strategic consultation, training, and research-based tools.
- National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices – a searchable online registry of interventions supporting substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion.
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)– a primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population, age 12 and older.
- Find Youth Info – a website that provides information on the elements of effective prevention programs, the core components of evidence-based prevention programs, and a program directory of up-to-date information for effective programs that address risk and protective factors related to substance abuse.
- Binge Drinking and Youth: What Everyone Needs to Know – a webcast that describes the problem of binge drinking and the dangers it poses to youth, including alcohol dependency. Examines the subcultures and behaviors that support binge drinking in youth and highlights prevention, early intervention, and treatment options.
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2012: Goals and Objectives for Action – a report outlining a national strategy to guide suicide prevention actions.
- Coming in February 2013 to SAMHSA’s Store – Behavioral Health Among College Students: An Information and Resource Kit, a resource developed for college and university prevention practitioners, health center staff, and administrators. The kit focuses on behavioral health issues among young Americans enrolled in colleges and universities.
- Too Smart to Start – a website dedicated to helping youth, families, educators, and communities prevent underage alcohol use and its related problems.
- Stop Underage Drinking – a comprehensive portal of federal resources for information on underage drinking and ideas for combating this issue.
- Tips for Teens – a series of brochures that provides facts and dispels myths about use of substances including marijuana, club drugs, hallucinogens, cocaine, inhalants, and others. Provides information on long-term and short-term effects, physical and psychological risks, and legal implications.
- As You Age…A Guide to Aging, Medicines, and Alcohol – a brochure that warns about the dangers of the elderly misusing alcohol, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter drugs. Describes the signs of misuse and steps that older adults can take to prevent problems.
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future – a website that provides parents, caregivers, and teachers of children aged 3 to 6 the opportunity to find lots of great tips, materials, and ideas for spending time with their children and learning together.
- Top Health Issues for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations Information & Resource Kit – a kit that contains information on important health issues for the LGBT community, including substance abuse.
- Keeping Your Teens Drug-Free: A Guide for African American Parents and Caregivers – a brochure that discusses skills African American parents and caregivers can use to prevent illicit drug use among teens.
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2012: How You Can Play a Role in Preventing Suicide – a fact sheet that describes how individuals can take action to prevent suicide.
- Coming in February 2013 to SAMHSA’s Store – Keeping Youth Drug Free, a booklet to inform parents about how to prevent their children from using illicit drugs.
1.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings, (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH Series H 41, HHS Publication No. SMA 11 4658). Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.
2.Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. State and County Quickfacts. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26000.html
3.Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/as.html
4.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings, (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH Series H 41, HHS Publication No. SMA 11 4658). Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.
6.U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2010). Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2010). Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf
7.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010). Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx