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October Is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

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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 American youth and people of all ages:

  • In 2013, an estimated 8.7 million people aged 12 to 20 (22.7 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol during the past month.1  To put that in perspective, there are more American youth who have engaged in underage drinking than there are people living in the state of Virginia.2
  • Approximately 25 million Americans age 12 and older were current illicit drug users. The most commonly used drugs were marijuana (19.8 million current users) and non-medical use of prescription medications (6.5 million current users).3
  • More than 17 million Americans age 12 and older were classified with alcohol dependence or abuse.4
    • Heavy alcohol use can cause serious damage to the body and affect the heart, liver, nervous system, digestive system, and immune system.5,6
    • Alcohol was a factor in approximately 31 percent of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in 2012.7

Stopping substance abuse before it begins can increase a person’s chances of living a longer, healthier, and more productive life.

What Can I Do to Prevent Substance Abuse?

  • Show your commitment to prevention by taking the National Prevention Week Prevention Pledge.  Share the pledge with friends and family, community centers, faith-based organizations, schools, community leaders, and organizations interested in supporting healthy communities.
  • Check out the websites, tools, and publications below for more information about substance abuse prevention, and share these resources with others!

Preventing substance abuse in your community starts with you.
Here are a few ideas for how to get started:

  • Re-post some of the facts above on your social media page, blog, or website.
  • Host an event in your neighborhood or community to raise awareness about substance abuse and to spur action on the part of community members and leaders.
  • Share and discuss your commitment to preventing substance abuse with others.  Starting a dialogue around prevention is the first step toward change.
  • Throw a substance-free party in October to celebrate football season, a birthday, Halloween, or another occasion.

Visit the National Substance Abuse Prevention Month website to learn about more ways to get involved.

Prevention Resources

For Coalitions and Professionals
  • Binge Drinking and Youth: What Everyone Needs to Know – a webcast that describes the problem of binge drinking and the dangers it poses to youth, including alcohol dependency.  Examines the subcultures and behaviors that support binge drinking in youth and highlights prevention, early intervention, and treatment options.
  • Communities That Care (CTC) Curriculum – a training program that equips communities with information to create a public health prevention approach to target youth problem behaviors such as violence, delinquency, and substance abuse.  Includes PowerPoint slides that cover strategic consultation, training, and research-based tools.
  • Find Youth Info – a website that provides information on the elements of effective prevention programs, the core components of evidence-based prevention programs, and a program directory of up-to-date information for effective programs that address risk and protective factors related to substance abuse.
  • Get Connected! Toolkit – A guide to assist service providers for the aging to learn more about and better address alcohol and medication misuse and mental health issues in older adults. Provides tools such as a program coordinator's guide, suggested curricula, and handouts.
  • The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress – a report outlining the current state and consequences of tobacco use in the United States, progress made in prevention and cessation activities over the past 50 years, and future directions for reducing tobacco use.
  • National Prevention Week Toolkit – a resource that equips communities and individuals with information and resources for planning an event to help prevent substance abuse and mental disorders. Includes event ideas, budgeting tips, fact sheets, promotional tools, and additional resources.
  • National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices – a searchable online registry of interventions supporting substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion.
  • National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2012: Goals and Objectives for Action – a report outlining a national strategy to guide suicide prevention actions.
  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – a primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population, age 12 and older.
  • Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit – a resource that equips communities and local governments with material to develop policies and practices to help prevent opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Addresses issues for first responders, treatment providers, and those recovering from opioid overdose.
  • Talk. They Hear You. – an underage drinking prevention campaign that helps parents and caregivers start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol.
  • 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.
  • Coming in Spring 2015 to SAMHSA’s StoreBehavioral Health Among College Students: An Information and Resource Kit, a resource developed for college and university prevention practitioners, health center staff, and administrators.  The kit focuses on behavioral health issues among young Americans enrolled in colleges and universities. 
For Individuals
  •  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 tips, materials, and ideas for spending time with their children and learning together.
  • 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.
  • Stop Underage Drinking – a comprehensive portal of federal resources for information on underage drinking and ideas for combating this issue.
  • Talk. They Hear You. – an underage drinking prevention campaign that helps parents and caregivers start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol.
  • 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.
  • Too Smart to Start – a website dedicated to helping youth, families, educators, and communities prevent underage alcohol use and its related problems.

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11 4863, NSDUH Series H-48). Rockville, MD: Retrieved from:

2 Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. (2013). State and County Quickfacts. Retrieved from

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11 4863, NSDUH Series H-48). Rockville, MD: Retrieved from:

4 Ibid.

5 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014). Fact sheets – alcohol use and your health. Retrieved from

6 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2010). Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health. Retrieved from

7 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2013). Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. Retrieved from


Last updated: 10/01/2014

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