October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month (NSAPM) – Undoubtedly aware the nation was approaching a real opioid epidemic, if not already in one, in 2011, U.S. Congress designated the month of October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month (NSAPM), believing that education and prevention is still the most effective method of keeping youth away from the never-ending threat of substance abuse.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States
Today, just a quick glance at your newspaper or favorite digital news feed is clear proof that now, more than ever, that substance abuse and, in particular, the opioid epidemic, can only be effectively addressed through the continuing education of children and adolescents. Basically, through continuing education, to stop them becoming as badly informed, and addicted, as the previous generation.
Importantly, you can now follow the hashtag #NSAPM on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news, views, and reviews about National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
NSAPM: What The Papers Are Saying This Month
The Ohio news media were reporting last week that Attorney General Dave Yost has announced a new $1.6 million research study into the relationship between genetic markers and addiction. One aim of this research is the development of an “Addiction Risk Score” to better classify a person’s likelihood of suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD), particularly with opioids, later in life.
Sadly, in stark contrast, the previous weekend, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the coroner of Franklin County in Ohio, had issued a public health alert on Facebook, stating “As of about 10 am this morning, we have had 10 people die of overdoses in about 26 hours. This is an unusually high number for our county in this period of time.” She even advised Franklin County residents to carry naloxone, a medication to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, along with fentanyl testing strips.
Last Monday, San Francisco, CA’s Mayor London N. Breed and the Department of Public Health (DPH) jointly announced a new overdose prevention program for single-room occupancy hotels (SROs), to be carried out in partnership with the Harm Reduction Coalition and the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
The program is in quick response to the rising number of overdose deaths in San Francisco, believed to be caused by the introduction of fentanyl into the drug supply around 30% of which take place at SROs. “This effort builds on San Francisco’s long history of implementing innovative solutions, working with the community, and emphasizing harm reduction to save lives,” said Mayor Breed.
Here in Washington state, one event getting local press coverage this month to mark both National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and the Red Ribbon Drug Prevention Week (held every year from October 23-31) is Raymond High School’s Drug Free Pledge and Spirit Day essay-writing contest – definitely putting the issue of substance abuse firmly in the classroom.
Lastly, this month, and like every month for the last 25 years (yes, for a quarter of a century), one man – Johnny Ohta, an independent substance abuse counselor for Seattle’s homeless youth – literally gets on his bike, and rides out to meet up with the many youngsters that he’s helping to get through their own individual addiction, recovery, and relapse.
Ohta is also a board member of the Center for Wooden Boats in the city and often takes his clients out sailing, an enjoyable experience for them and the chance to talk. Few addiction counselors in Seattle have worked directly with homeless youth for longer than Ohta. His long-term, intensive, and “there-for-everything” case management is, Ohta believes, what is really needed to fully address youth addiction and homelessness in the city.
Why Do We Have National Substance Abuse Prevention Month?
The National Substance Abuse Prevention Month promotes education and prevention as being the most effective method of keeping youth away from the never-ending threat of substance abuse. Here are a number of examples of why it is definitely needed:
- Currently, about 9.4% of all people aged 12 and over in the U.S. are involved in some sort of substance abuse, either with illegal drugs, or legal substances like alcohol or prescription drugs. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) results, illegal drug use rates have remained stable since 2002 (the use of some drugs, such as cocaine, has actually declined).
- However, the survey has shown a clear trend in the increasing use of marijuana, and an alarming increase in the abuse of prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs. Of the 6.5 million who reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs, 5.2 million were using painkillers, predominantly opioids.
- According to an in-depth study of alcohol use disorders (AUD) in the U.S. during the first decade of this millennia, alcoholism rates rose by an astonishing 49%. This means that 12.7% of the U.S. population now meets the official diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder – that is a deeply disturbing ratio of 1 alcoholic in every 8 adults.
Opioid Overdoses & Fatalities in Washington State
In 2017, there were 742 overdose deaths involving opioids in Washington – that’s a rate of 9.6 deaths per 100,000 persons (around two-thirds of the current national rate). The greatest increase in opioid deaths occurred among cases involving heroin, with a rise from 60 deaths in 2010 to 306 deaths in 2017.
Deaths involving synthetic opioids (mainly, fentanyl) also increased from 59 deaths in 2013 to 143 deaths in 2017. There were 343 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2017, a slight decrease from 474 in 2010.
Alcohol Abuse in Washington State
- Most WA state students reported drinking 1-2 days during the month (with 12th graders reporting an exceedingly high rate of 32%)
- Among those students who drink, the majority use hard liquor, increasing their risk of alcohol poisoning
- Nearly 20% of 10th graders and 17% of 12th graders reported traveling in a car with a driver who had recently consumed alcohol
- Around 9% of 12th graders admitted to driving after using alcohol
Education & Prevention: The Dual Aims of NSAPM
The Benjamin Franklin quote that opens this article – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – applies to all aspects of healthcare. However, Franklin said those words when he was actually addressing fire safety. Maybe, the important word here should be “safety.” In reality, substance abuse education and prevention is really about our children’s, and, therefore, our nation’s safety, above all else.
- Education: If our children are left relatively clueless about the very real dangers involved when using substances, such as opioid painkillers like OxyContin, stolen secretly from their parents’ medicine cabinet, so-called “study aids” such as Adderall, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) prescription medication, or illegal drugs like cocaine, then how can we expect them not to try these things “for the fun of it”? Remember, knowledge is only acquired through learning.
- Prevention: Prevention strategies are essential to curb drug use and help people, particularly the youth, lead far healthier lives. Practices such as early interventions will help both prevent substance abuse and reduce the negative consequences of addiction before they actually occur. Such methods work best when used through community-based efforts involving youth, parents, educators, and government officers.
The U.S. National Drug Control Strategy, founded on the aims of education and prevention, states that “each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18. The Strategy [continues to] include new developments in efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences, and outlines a research-based blueprint to reduce the rate of drug use and drug use consequences.”
The aim of these strategies includes the orchestrating of Federal prevention activities, and the support of participation in the observance within states and communities, throughout NSAPM.
Substance Abuse Education & Prevention in Washington State
In Washington state, substance abuse education and prevention is considered one of the highest priorities of the state governors: “Keeping children and teens healthy and safe while reducing the costs of substance abuse to communities.” That concept of safety again.
The state funds a number of data-driven services through the Healthcare Authority, based on the state’s own strategic plan for substance abuse prevention, and these prevention programs are delivered in collaboration with:
- Community prevention coalitions
- Statewide organizations, and
- State and federal agencies
WA Statewide Prevention Programs: To help prevent substance use, and promote health and wellness in communities across Washington State, there are the following Statewide Prevention Programs in place:
- Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative
- Washington State Healthy Youth Survey
- Student Assistance Program
WA Current Projects: The state’s HCA has several current projects that support communities across the state in their efforts to prevent substance use. These are:
- College Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention
- Drug Free Communities Support Program
- Evidence-based Programs & Practices
- Marijuana Legislation: implementing Initiative 502
- Tribal prevention and wellness programs
- Washington Health Youth Coalition
Washington State Conferences
Every year, the state hosts two conferences for community partners working towards substance use prevention and promoting health and wellness in their communities. These are:
- The Prevention Summit, hosted by the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery
- The Spring Youth Forum
Furthermore, individual counties within Washington state also run their own substance abuse prevention programs alongside those funded by the state. For example, in King’s County, WA, which is home to both of Northpoint – The Evergreen’s drug rehab facilities (Bellevue and Northgate), there are 2 programs that focus specifically on the prevention of substance abuse and violence:
- King County Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Program provides staff to train and help individuals and groups interested in preventing substance use among children and youth, and also contracts with community agencies to provide prevention services
- King County Community Organizing Program (COP) provides staff to work with groups to plan and deliver substance abuse and violence prevention strategies
King County’s specific goals of their prevention programs are again substance abuse-violence specific:
- To “help young people to abstain from alcohol and other drugs”
- To “keep young people from engaging in violence”
- “If young people use drugs and/or are involved in violence, help them to stop and make better choices”
- To “work with families, communities, and schools to support non-use and non-violence”
Here’s why. According to the 2010 Healthy Youth Survey, 12th-grade students in King’s County reported that:
- 39.6% drank alcohol
- 7.2% used other illegal drugs (i.e. not counting alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco)
- 17.8% were bullied
- 5.9% carried a weapon to school
- 14.6% had been physically abused by an adult
We’re Here to Help
The outpatient rehabs at Northpoint The Evergreen at Bellevue and Northgate are both here to help you if you are suffering with either a substance use disorder (SUD or, specifically, an alcohol use disorder (AUD), allowing you to maintain your work and family commitments while receiving outstanding addiction treatment.
Our accredited integrated treatment program has helped many individuals with addiction and mental health disorders. We offer a complementing mix of services that have proven to be essential to the recovery process. We offer 3 levels of our highly successful addiction treatment:
- Outpatient (OP): A traditional outpatient alcohol or drug treatment schedule, including 4-6 hours per week of therapy, along with additional psychiatric or family sessions as needed, with a weekly commitment of 6 hrs
- Intensive Outpatient (IOP): Intensive Outpatient is exactly what it sounds like – outpatient drug or alcohol rehab on a higher-level, using a more intensive schedule than other outpatient programs, with a weekly commitment of 10-15 hrs
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP): Also known as Day Treatment, the PHP program offers 6 hours per day, 5 days per week of therapeutic activities, while allowing the patient to spend both nights and weekends at home, with a weekly commitment of 30 hrs
Battling addiction is lonely enough. Recovery doesn’t have to be.
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