Indiana University Indiana University IU

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Prevent. Achieve. Succeed: Substance Abuse Awareness Month

Spanish version (--En Español) »

Last month, we celebrated Recovery Awareness month by recognizing its characteristics and available services in Indiana. We discussed the recovery process by including initiatives to benefit the individual and community. Sobriety, however, is an on-going process for anyone and a challenging endeavor to accomplish. We dedicate this newsletter to their struggle by offering suggestions to help them achieve and maintain sobriety.

What is substance abuse? Before reading any further, click here for national information from the Center for Addiction and Substance Use (CASA). Healthy People 2020 defines substance abuse as a set of related conditions associated with the consumption of mind and behavior altering substances that have negative behavioral and health outcomes (IPRC, 2014). Substance abuse has a major impact on individuals, families, and communities of all sizes. For instance, substance abuse within a rural community can present many problems.  Increased crime and violence, vehicular accidents caused by driving while intoxicated, spreading of infectious diseases, fetal alcohol syndrome, risky sexual behavior, homelessness, and unemployment may all be the result of one or more forms of substance abuse in rural areas (RAC, 2015).

There are risk factors associated with substance use which increase the chances of addiction. According to the National Center on Addiction of Substance Abuse (CASA), the following are a list of factors:

  • Certain brain characteristics that can make someone more vulnerable to addictive substances than the average person
  • Psychological factors (e.g., stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, other mental illnesses)
  • Environmental influences (e.g., exposure to abuse or trauma, substance use or addiction in the family or among peers, exposure to an addictive substance and exposure to popular culture references that encourage substance use)
  • Starting substance use at an early age (CASA Columbia, 2015)

Substance use often begins at a very early age. According to the Indiana Youth Survey 2015, the mean age of the first use of prescription drugs is 10.5, with inhalants at 10.6, alcohol at 10.8, and other illegal drugs at 10.9 years of age. This misuse during youth may continue into and through adulthood, with research suggesting a greater impact on women and veterans.

According to the 2008 SAMHSA publication “Action Steps for Improving Women’s Mental Health,” recent research consistently finds “the influence of gender differences in the prevalence, course and burden of mental illnesses.” Research also finds that women often have different pathways to substance use, have different risk factors for substance use, suffer different consequences of substance use, experience different barriers to treatment, and have different recovery-support needs from those of men. (SAMHSA, 2011).

Similarly, the Veterans Administration suggests a surge in substance use disorder (SUD) with residual adverse effects. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, substance use disorders (SUDs) have substantial negative consequences on Veterans' mental and physical health, work performance, housing status, and social functioning. The population of Veterans with SUDs, other than nicotine dependence, is increasing in both absolute terms and as a percentage of the overall Veteran Health Administration (VHA) patient population - from 270,991 (6.1% of VHA patients) in FY02 to 461,927 (8.3% of VHA patients) in FY10 (USVA, 2015).

Of the roughly 23 million Americans who suffer from drug and alcohol disorders, in 2014, only 11 percent receive treatment at a specialty facility, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Kaiser Health News, 2015). In 2010, an estimated 24,440 Indiana residents sought treatment for substance abuse including 476 under age 18 (The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, 2010).

Despite these discouraging statistics, there is much that organizations can do to address and reduce substance abuse in local schools and communities:

  • Issue a Substance Abuse Awareness Month proclamation from the Mayor’s Office.
  • Include a Press Release in the local newspaper highlighting federal recognition of Substance Abuse Awareness Month. For more information, click here.
  • Invite a member of the Drug Enforcement Administration in your area to speak to the students about the dangerous consequences of using drugs and the legal implications.
  • Volunteer with a community program or organization that provides support for at-risk populations such as youth, tribal communities, veterans, and military families.
  • Partner with local businesses (including fast food restaurants, bookstores, video and music stores; movie theaters; skating rinks; bowling alleys, and miniature golf courses) for drug-free youth events or promotions.
  • Organize a Substance Abuse Parade or Rally in celebration of UNITE to Face Addiction https://www.facingaddiction.org/press
  • Hold a fund-raising dance or event and donate a portion of the proceeds to the local substance abuse program.
  • Create the Caring School Community Program, which focuses on establishing a sense of community among the classroom, school, and family settings. The community support that results helps children succeed in school and cope with stress and other problems (NIDA: Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents, 2015).
  • Set up an essay, poster, or media contest in order to allow individuals to share their stories or opinions about substance abuse.
  • Work to educate business leaders in your community on substance abuse issues. Each Friday,  distribute prevention materials geared to the workplace and offer to help them sponsor a “ lunch n’ learn” for employees by recommending local experts able to speak about various topics including prescription drug abuse, drugged driving, marijuana use, and/or underage drinking (SAMHSA, 2014).

While these activities and events are particularly appropriate during Substance Abuse Awareness Month in October, they can also be held year around. In addition, Indiana community organizations and/or individuals can consult the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies for long-term ideas SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) is a national substance abuse prevention training and technical assistance system dedicated to strengthening prevention systems and the nation’s behavioral health workforce. CAPT provides capacity-building training and technical assistance designed to help SAMHSA-funded grantees successfully implement all five steps of SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SAMSHA, 2015). This portal can provide information specific to diversity, age, gender, and tribal affiliation. Additionally, videos are included as a testament to reducing substance abuse in diverse communities. To view a sample video from SAMSHA that discusses the importance of cultural context to the design and delivery of technical assistance for substance abuse programs and services, click here.   In addition, the IPRC Home Library offers links to these and hundreds of other online e-resources related to substance abuse and related topics; the Home Library is available from the IPRC homepage from the Library tab.   The IPRC Hispanic/Latino Portal of online e-resources contains abundant resources in English and Spanish on substance abuse and health-related topics for this population and their service providers.  

In closing, every person is unique, and the substance abuse options we have recommended may not work to your best advantage. We hope that our message inspires you forward, and gives you a ray of hope.

By Julius Lee 10/8/2015