By Cathy Toran, M.Ed
Needham Public Health Department
Substance Abuse Prevention & Education
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a month-long observance that focuses on the role substance abuse prevention plays in promoting safe and healthy communities.
The Scope of Substance Abuse in America:
Substance use, including 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
- Heavy alcohol use can cause serious damage to the body and affects the liver, nervous system, muscles, lungs, and heart.6
- Alcohol is a factor in approximately 41 percent of deaths from motor vehicle crashes.7
Stopping substance before it begins can increase a person’s chances of living a longer, healthier, and more productive life.
- 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.
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