October: National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month
October is dedicated to bringing awareness to youth substance use prevention; it is vital as it recognizes how substance use prevention can affect the individual and community. In addition, community members can use this time to remember individuals who have lost their lives to substance misuse1. While it is important to have a month dedicated to bringing awareness to this issue, prevention efforts to ensure the health of young adults and teens should be continued all year long. In 2016, Former President Obama released a proclamation on National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month. In 2021, President Joe Biden also released a proclamation on National Youth Substance Use Prevention further to ground the importance of intervention efforts on this issue. He states that addiction and overdose have significantly affected the community, and there is a need to overcome this epidemic to ensure America’s youth live healthy lives. Additionally, there is a need for more resources about substance use disorder as events such as covid-19 have exacerbated this issue.2
Preliminary data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July of 2021 showed an increase in overdose deaths by 30 percent from 2019 to more than 93,000 in 20203. Regarding substance use in adolescents, a review by the National Institute of Health (NIH) stated that alcohol and cannabis are most commonly used amongst adolescents and typically initiated during a sensitive neurodevelopmental period. Additionally, emerging research shows that substance use disorders are developmental issues that begin in early adolescence and can harm an individual’s overall lifespan4. A study from the recovery research institute also examined medical and nonmedical opioid overdose deaths and the relationships between prescription opioid misuse, heroin use, and injection drug use among adolescents and emerging adults in the United States between 2010 and 2016. While there were many findings in this study, it was reported that approximately 1 out of 7 high-school students in the United States said a lifetime use of nonmedical prescription opioids. Furthermore, a history of misuse was associated with a higher rate of injection and heroin use5. Studies and data such as those mentioned above are essential in understanding the risk factors in vulnerable groups such as youth while discussing novel interventions and preventions that may help reduce risk.
Considering this information, prevention and intervention efforts are needed to further the fight to decrease substance misuse among adolescents and young adults. As stated in President Joe Biden’s proclamation - this may look like utilizing evidence-based prevention programs and increasing access to care and recovery support services for youth.² Promoting these evidence-based programs by those who work in prevention may be a stepping stone in engaging the communities to find solutions at a local level. Additionally, implementing racial equity into drug prevention programs and policy is vital for shifting efforts to be more effective and culturally resonant. Check out this resource on Talking Effectively with Youth About Substance Use to learn more.
- National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. National Substance Abuse Prevention Month | Youth.gov. https://youth.gov/feature-article/national-substance-abuse-prevention-month. Accessed September 26, 2022.
- A Proclamation on National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month, 2021. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/30/a-proclamation-on-national-youth-substance-use-prevention-month-2021/. Published September 30, 2021. Accessed September 26, 2022.
- Ahmad FB, Cisewski JA, Rossen LM, Sutton P. Provisional drug overdose death counts. National Center for Health Statistics. 2022. Designed by LM Rossen, A Lipphardt, FB Ahmad, JM Keralis, and Y Chong: National Center for Health Statistics.
- Lees B, Debenham J, Squeglia LM. Alcohol and Cannabis Use and the Developing Brain. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://arcr.niaaa.nih.gov/volume/41/1/alcohol-and-cannabis-use-and-developing-brain. Published September 9, 2021. Accessed September 26, 2022.
- Bohm, M. K., & Clayton, H. B. (2020). Nonmedical use of prescription opioids, heroin use, injection drug use, and overdose mortality in US adolescents. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 81(4), 484-488. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2020.81.484