“In the United States, no child's dreams should be out of reach because the necessary encouragement and care were not accessible. As a Nation, as community members, and as American citizens, we have an obligation to help cultivate a society free from substance abuse. This month, let us resolve to model a healthy lifestyle for those around us, talk openly with our youth about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and reach for a future where opportunity knows no bounds.” —President Obama
Communities take many shapes: neighborhoods, schools and colleges, cities and towns, places of worship, workplaces, families, and peer groups. Throughout October, we called on all of these communities to get involved in National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. This year’s theme, Unleashing the Collective Power of Communities, spoke to the powerful force of a community united. Stopping substance use before it ever begins is vital to promoting safe and healthy communities.
Drug use prevention is also a fundamental element of the President’s National Drug Control Strategy. We live at a time when the threats from drugs are changing. Fortunately, there is good news. Data from the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health show signs of progress, including lower national levels of non-medical prescription drug use and teen alcohol and tobacco use. Similarly, our Drug-Free Communities are registering decreases in youth prescription pill, tobacco, and alcohol use.
But we remain concerned about the heartbreaking toll that heroin and non-medical prescription drug use takes on too many Americans and the risk it poses to the Nation’s young people. Despite the challenges we face, we can make a difference. Research has shown that each dollar invested in proven school-based prevention programs can reduce social costs, including those related to substance use, by an average of $18.
We still have work to do, but working together we can succeed. We urge you to visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and ONDCP websites for tools, programs, and data to help you implement evidence-based strategies and interventions in your communities. Please take a few minutes to review these resources and share them with others in your community.
As we mark the conclusion of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month 2015, we applaud the commitment of those who played a role in preventing substance use, and we ask everyone to recommit to fostering a culture where all our people can live up to their fullest potential.
Frances M. Harding is the Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and Mary Lou Leary is the Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs at the Office of National Drug Control Policy