Preventing substance use initiation, also known as "first-time use," can spare many young people from experiencing significant challenges later in life. While most drug and alcohol prevention efforts target adolescents, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a remarkable number of individuals who use drugs and alcohol for the first time after leaving home for college. What’s more, the late teens and early twenties are when many young people develop unhealthy relationships with mind-altering substances.
Illicit drug and alcohol use is pervasive in high school; however, many teens can avoid situations that could precipitate substance use. Some parents can successfully impress upon their children the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use; and, when young people fully grasp the potential consequences, they are more likely to make informed decisions.
There will always be teens who disregard the pleas of their parents and teachers to refrain from alcohol and substance use, and fortunately, the majority of such teens will not develop a use disorder down the road. Although, given that it is impossible to predict who will suffer from addiction later in life, it is critical that health experts, college faculties, and parents work together to prevent substance use initiation as long as possible. Furthermore, the use of drugs and alcohol can still cause severe injury or death even without the presence of a use disorder in an individual.
SAMHSA National Prevention Week (NPW)
A teenager or young adult can begin using drugs or alcohol at any time of the year; however, research shows that there are certain months that young people are more likely to start using mind-altering substances. For instance, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that college students most often use a drug or alcohol for the first time during June or July. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) believes that May is an excellent time to focus on prevention efforts. The hope is that as the school year or second semester comes to a close, young people will think twice before using drugs and alcohol.
The SAMHSA Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) reports that 2,100 to 2,500 full-time college students aged 18 to 22 used alcohol for the first time in June and July; compared to between 1,100 to 2,000 young people using alcohol for the first time during other months of the year. The organization finds that tobacco, marijuana, and inhalant use initiation among college students aged 18 to 22 peaks over the course of the summer, as well.
Each May, SAMHSA hosts National Prevention Week! Before young people break for summer, the administration helps schools and organizations host prevention-themed events aiming to strengthen the community, school, and family bonds that can shield adolescents and young adults from substance use. SAMHSA’s primary goals this week are to:
- Involve communities in raising awareness about behavioral health issues and implementing prevention strategies;
- Foster partnerships and collaboration with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to behavioral and public health; and
- Promote and disseminate quality behavioral health resources and publications.
NPW Prevention Challenge: Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow!
Given that not everyone can take part in a National Prevention Week event in person there are other avenues of participation. There are several webinars up in the form of YouTube videos that you may find of interest. The NPW Prevention Challenge is another way young people can take a proactive approach to avoiding the trappings of drugs and alcohol. The theme for NPW 2018 is Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow. SAMHSA asks you to write a video letter to yourself and, if you feel comfortable, upload it to social media. You can find an example below:
If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
NPW 2018 Prevention Challenge: #DearFutureMe encourages others to take action today for a healthier tomorrow!
National Prevention Week is an important event that can steer young people toward making healthy decisions. For some young people, however, the cycle of addiction is already in full force, and there is a need for more significant attention. There is a substantial number of college students struggling with drugs and alcohol who require treatment. Unfortunately, a remarkable number of people who need help are resistant to it because they don’t want to get behind in school. The good news is that individuals can address their alcohol and substance use disorder with only a slight disruption to their education.
At PACE Academy, we help young people break the cycle of addiction and equip them with the tools necessary for working a program of long-term recovery. We help clients working towards an associate or bachelor’s degrees at several community colleges and universities. At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one keep addiction from derailing one’s future; please contact us today to learn more about our programs.