Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

September is Recovery Month, substance abuse

Posted: Friday, September 18, 2015

September is Recovery Month, which spreads the message that behavioral health is essential to overall wellness, and that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.

Substance abuse can be prevented by the same messages about alcohol, drugs, and tobacco being delivered by multiple messengers that includes schools, parents, peers, and the community - repeatedly throughout childhood and adolescence. The primary goal of prevention is to delay the first use of alcohol or other drugs.

Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages nine and 13. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure can lead them to drink more. Twenty-one percent of youth acknowledge having had more than a sip of alcohol before 13 years of age. Research indicates that those who begin drinking before age 14 are significantly more likely to experience alcohol dependence compared to individuals who begin drinking after age 21. Parental engagement, strong family bonds, and clear expectations and consequences are some ways to help delay experimentation with drugs and alcohol, thus helping reduce long-term problems.

High school and college students are at risk of developing substance use disorders due to various pressures they face:

High School Students: Driven by the desire to “fit in” with certain social groups, the high school environment fosters immense peer pressure. In addition, academic pressures can be overwhelming. Fortunately, this group has many resources around them, such as parents, teachers, counselors, and other support groups who can provide critical information, resources, and support. In 2013, 8.8 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users, and 11.6 percent were current alcohol users.

College Students: College brings independence, but also responsibility, academic stress, social pressure, and easier access to alcohol and/or drugs. Often, college students do not reach out and utilize resources on their campuses. In 2013, 22.3 percent of full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were currently using illicit drugs, with nearly one out of five using marijuana (19.8 percent). More than half (59.4 percent) were drinking alcohol.

Substance use disorders can be treated, just like other health problems. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.7 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, but only 2.5 million received treatment. By seeking help, people who experience substance use disorders can begin a new path toward improved health and overall wellness. Also, ongoing peer recovery support can help individuals regain meaning, purpose, and positive social connections. A large part of peer recovery is sharing their story, helping others know they too can live a life of recovery. A peer is often the symbol of hope many seek to either start or continue their personal journey of recovery.

Free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day through SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or www.recoverymonth.gov.