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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 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 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 downloading, printing, and taking the Prevention Pledge (PDF|140KB). Send a copy to friends and family. Share the pledge with 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!

Take action during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and encourage family and friends to do the same! 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—download a list of ideas for prevention coalitions to observe National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.(PDF|355KB)
  • 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!

Prevention Resources

For Coalitions and Professionals
  • 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.
  • National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices – a searchable online registry of interventions supporting substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • National Strategy for Suicide Prevention 2012: Goals and Objectives for Action – a report outlining a national strategy to guide suicide prevention actions.
  • – a website that contains comprehensive information about bullying prevention. Youth substance use and bullying have many risk and protective factors in common.
  • Coming in February 2013 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
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
3.Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from
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; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2010). Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from
7.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010). Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from


Last updated: 10/10/2012

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