National Prevention Week: At the Intersection of Substance Use Prevention
By David L. Wilson
E-cigarettes. Marijuana. Opioids. Alcohol. Inhalants. These substances and many others affect our communities each day, many of them misused and abused to the point of substance use disorder, serious illness, and even death. They are used in every segment of a community, from older populations to veterans to youth and young adults, who may start with one substance and then potentially transition to another substance. We know for example that frequent marijuana use in both youth (ages 12 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 25) appears to be associated with opioid use, heavy alcohol use, and major depressive episodes.
The work of prevention practitioners and community advocates—who know the consequences of such behaviors all too well—has never been more important. That’s where SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week (NPW) comes in.
NPW has helped those who are tackling substance misuse in their communities coalesce around a national observance that champions prevention in all forms and promotes positive mental health. Part education and part engagement, NPW provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities around the country to relay experiences and share strategies that can truly save lives.
NPW activities and focus areas align with several PTTC, ATTC, and MHTTC Focus Areas—from marijuana risk to suicide prevention to opioid education to community coalitions and collaborators. By putting people in touch with evidence-based prevention strategies and data to guide their prevention planning, NPW is a great opportunity for the individuals, organizations, and communities served by the PTTCs, ATTCs, and MHTTCs to advance strategies that engage the next generation of prevention professionals.
Prevention requires a sustained commitment and a dynamic engagement strategy to keep it top of mind for stakeholders. That’s why, year-round, SAMHSA:
- Cultivates an engaged network of federal and national collaborating organizations to promote and participate in NPW throughout the year. SAMHSA’s relationships with the 41 collaborating organizations allowed NPW 2019 to inspire new audiences across the country to take action in their homes, workplaces, and communities.
- Supports the grassroots network of communities doing prevention every day. In 2019, organizations, governments, and individuals across 26 states held at least 90 creative events and activities to strengthen substance use prevention efforts and promote positive mental health.
- Promotes and disseminates quality behavioral health resources and publications, particularly the Tips for Teens series, which explores emerging substances and challenges such as opioids and e-cigarettes, and shareable data visualizations featuring data on specific substances.
- Encourages grassroots participation at any time of year via an online Prevention Challenge. For NPW 2020, which will take place May 10–16, we’re challenging people to take a selfie in the geographic locations and environments where they are putting prevention into action to show that #PreventionHappensHere.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, SAMHSA. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
If you would like to learn more about the resources mentioned in this article and the many ways NPW is advancing prevention and promoting positive mental health both nationally and locally, give us a look at www.samhsa.gov/prevention-week.
For questions about NPW generally or information on how to participate in NPW, contact me at [email protected].