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Prioritizing Prevention: Navigating National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

March 15th, 2024


March 18-March 24, 2024 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. During this week, there is a heightened focus on opening the dialogue about substance use and its impacts. The following are a few facts about Drugs and Alcohol use:

  1. In 2022 alone, 281,000 boys between ages 12-17 had an Alcohol Use Disorder (NIAAA).
  2. 472,000 girls between ages 12-17 had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2022. (NIAAA).
  3. In a survey conducted by SAMHSA in 2020, 57 percent of youths surveyed did not see having 5 drinks in one setting as problematic (SAMHSA).
  4. 15% of high school students reported use of illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime (i.e. cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy) (CDC).
  5. Use of drugs and alcohol in youth can lead to risky behaviors leading to heightened instances of physical and sexual violence.

Overcoming Challenges: Addressing Stigma and Barriers

There are copious reasons why people do not seek help. For some, they may feel shame for their struggles with substances. Language used surrounding addiction can detour many from getting the help that they need in worry of being judged or looked down upon. For others, they may either live in an area that does not have many resources available to them, or they may not have anyone that they feel comfortable enough going to for help. Other barriers may include lack of insurance/costs associated with help, peer pressure to continue engaging in substance use, transportation, and unstable housing.

Increased Susceptibility to Substance Use Issues

Education on substance abuse is vital in working to reduce the number of people who struggle with substance abuse. It is important to consider factors that may increase one’s likelihood of abusing substances. These include genetics, family history of substance abuse, childhood trauma, environment one lives in, where a person lives/ geographic location, one’s social support system, life stressors, undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders and lack of healthy coping strategies that one has, among many other considerations. In some environments, substance use may be normalized, making it difficult for one to even recognize they may have an issue with it.

History on Youth Education on Drug and Alcohol abuse and Current Interventions

Throughout the years, a variety of initiatives and campaigns have taken place to educate children and adolescents on alcohol and drug use. The D.A.R.E. program, an initiative to get children to “say no to drugs”, took place in schools from the early 80’s until 2009. In this program, police officers would come into school to educate students on different types of drugs and encourage them to say no if they encountered them. This campaign ended up being counterproductive, due to law enforcements no tolerance policy to drugs, leading many children to take no action at all.

Harm Reduction Approach

It is important to educate youth not only on the dangers of substance use, but also provide an environment that is supportive in having uncomfortable conversations around drugs and alcohol. In an ideal world, it would be enough to encourage and educate the youth to not use substances and to not let peer pressure get to them. If we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this alone will prevent substance abuse, the statistics will only increase. If kids fear being crucified if they are caught using substances, they will go to more extreme measures to hide their use. This could lead to individuals getting drugs or alcohol from the black market and places that mix in other drugs that can be fatal if consumed such as fentanyl.

With the harm reduction approach to substance use, this can cultivate a safer environment for consumption, encourage using drugs safely, and can minimize the shame one may feel for using a substance. In this approach, substances are often used in smaller or less frequent quantities. It can help people that have addictions cut back in a more managed way, instead of going “cold turkey” which for some can be life threatening. Harm reduction can help one that is struggling get to a path of complete sobriety if one chooses to utilize this route.

Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment Resources in Chicago

Although this week is specifically used to talk about the facts surrounding drug and alcohol use and prevention strategies, it takes more than one week of the year for change to be made. Education on alcohol and drugs is necessary from an early age, but the conversation cannot stop there. It is important to be aware of the potential signs of alcohol and drug abuse throughout ones lifetime.

The following are a few resources available in the Chicago area:

  1. Pilsen Wellness Center - Chicago Substance Use Prevention Program
  2. NAMI Chicago
  3. City of Chicago Substance Use Prevention Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Additionally, here at Clarity Clinic, we have resources and trained clinicians who are ready to help, including psychiatrists and therapists. We also have an Early Recovery Group that provides safe environments to provide support for individuals who may be looking to begin seeking treatment.

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