October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month
By Vicente Sanabria, Dave Greco and Annie Womer
Over the last year many communities have been made aware of the over-prescription of opioid pain medication and the consequences of overdoses. A mass devastation has visited Individuals and families throughout our country with opioid addiction and overdoses. This has led them to mobilize and increase the voice of substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/substance-abuse/prevention/opioid-overdose-prevention.html) As the premier agency on the front lines of community health, LUK has seen the despair of addiction and the hope that prevention brings throughout its service area.
In recognition of the work that is addressing this opioid crisis as well as underage drinking, LUK would like to dedicate this blog to Substance Abuse Prevention Month – October 2015.
Along the continuum of prevention, treatment and recovery, the decreasing number of opioid overdose deaths exemplifies how substance abuse prevention requires entire communities to be local resources who are available 24/7.
Substance Abuse Prevention Month celebrates the work of hundreds of people providing countless volunteer hours. These hours are spent providing education, awareness, training and developing and implementing strategies to decrease opioid overdoses. These volunteers represent families, individuals, schools, faith communities, law enforcement, public safety and public health, businesses, youth, local and county government, and the list goes on. This is the heart of the substance abuse prevention coalitions working in many of our communities across Central MA and the state.
If substance abuse prevention had a mantra it might go something like this, “Multiple strategies in multiple settings with common goals.”
The work of substance abuse prevention differs in two complementary views. Treatment, in many cases, provides an empowering atmosphere through a clinical relationship to address a diagnosable individual or group problem. Prevention focuses on creating an empowering environment where these individuals live. While the client of a treatment model can be one individual or a group, the “client” of prevention strategies is an entire town, school district, faith community or any of those community stakeholders mentioned previously.
At a state level, the Commonwealth has launched a series of resources that communities, families, and individuals can review here:
At the local level in Central Massachusetts, the Montachusett Public Health Network (MPHN), which is working on reducing underage drinking in the eleven towns which they serve in North Worcester County in collaboration with LUK. (http://www.luk.org/services/prevention-services/substance-abuse-prevention)
LUK is currently implementing a series of substance abuse prevention strategies to reduce underage drinking in those eleven towns. through funding that MPHN received from the MA Dept. of Public Health.
Researchers believe that there is a high probability of a correlation between underage drinking and later opioid addiction for a large number of high school and middle school students. A question in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given to middle and high school students every 2 years in the state of MA, asks them about their use of alcohol (as well as other drugs). The question in the survey asks them about their personal current (defined as within the previous 30 days) binge or episodic drinking behavior. The self-reported rate of high school students, for this type of drinking, has gone down from 27% in 2005 to 19% in 2013. For middle schoolers it has been cut in half from 4% in 2007 to 2% in 2013.
Why is this important? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), when an adolescent begins to drink alcohol before the age of 15 they are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some point in their life. They are also at highest risk to develop an addiction to opioids and other drugs. Those who are familiar with the personality traits of an alcoholic know how addiction impacts every aspect of the lives of the active user, their family members and the community as a whole.
Substance abuse prevention is not a one size fits all answer to substance abuse, however, it is extremely effective in protecting adolescents from future substance use. As the rates for adolescents continue to decline so will the number of future addicts. And that is something worth celebrating.
So, please, join LUK in celebrating and recognizing National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and help spread the word that Prevention Works! Treatment is Possible! And Recovery Happens!