On the heels of National Recovery Month in September, October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month sponsored in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Every year during this month, treatment providers, prevention advocates, individuals, families, and communities take the time to reflect and promote the role that substance abuse prevention plays in developing and maintaining safe and healthy communities. Stopping substance abuse before it begins is one of the best approaches to increasing the chances that individuals will have long, healthy, productive lives. Substance abuse prevention also helps to reduce the long term societal costs and consequences associated with alcohol and drug use.
The dictionary defines prevention as: the practice or act of stopping something bad from happening. In the case of this month, we are talking about stopping substance abuse before it happens in order to help prevent the myriad of other issues that affect individuals, families, and the community. The issues that excessive drinking and/or drug abuse can cause may include:
- Mental health problems for the individual(s) including depression, anxiety, paranoia, mood swings, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and other issues
- Negative sexual experiences including unplanned or unwanted sex, date rape and sexual assaults
- Abusive situations: verbal, physical, emotional abuse, or neglect, also to include bullying, physical assaults, and domestic violence
- Dangerous involvement with motor vehicles: driving while impaired or riding in a car with someone else who is impaired
- Involvement in criminal behavior such as theft, burglary, assault, possession and/or distribution, driving under the influence, domestic violence, and other crimes
- Problems, including productivity issues, attention problems, and safety concerns, for individual(s), coworkers or youth in the workplace or the school
As an individual, you have a responsibility and the ability to prevent substance abuse in your home and in your community. Through discussions, individual actions, community involvement, and celebrations, we all can get the word out that prevention works. Here are some ideas for how you can get started:
Go to the Too Smart to Start website and poke around. This website is focused on helping youth, families, educators, and communities prevent underage alcohol use and its related problems. You can find educational resources, tips, videos, quizzes, and links, all focused towards preventing alcohol use by young people. They say “Talk with young people early and often…” I couldn’t agree more.
[three_fourth_last]Participate in Red Ribbon Week in your community or in your school. Red Ribbons came to be a drug free symbol following the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. He was killed in the line of duty while working in Mexico. In response to his murder, parents and youth began wearing red ribbons to help raise awareness of the problems caused by drugs in America. [/three_fourth_last]
In 1998, the National Family Partnership (NFP) organized the first Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign and they continue to sponsor the annual campaign today. It generally takes place in October and hopes to serve as a catalyst for educating youth and encourage individuals and communities to participate in drug prevention activities. You can take the pledge here.
Find or start a local community coalition through the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) website. Their mission is: “To strengthen the capacity of community coalitions to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally.” They have members in every U.S. state and territory and working in 18 countries around the world, there is sure to be an opportunity near you.
Big or small, individual or community, every action towards preventing substance abuse can save lives. Get involved. Start the conversation.