Although many people don’t realize it, Perry Wellness Center serves not only those with mental health problems, but with addictive diseases. Many of our peers have a history of both mental illness and substance abuse.

This month we want to commemorate National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. The first national proclamation was signed by President Obama in 2011, in order to shed more light on the problem of substance abuse in communities and to promote activities that would reduce the likelihood that young people would use alcohol and drugs.

Prevention and early intervention efforts are based on the knowledge that many individuals who struggle with addictive disease began the cycle with early use of alcohol and/or drugs in adolescence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of adult with substance abuse disorders began using alcohol or drugs before the age of 18 and had developed a disorder by the age of 20. We know that, for example, young people aged 12 – 20 account for 11 percent of U.S. alcohol consumption.

By promoting better understanding of potentially dangerous substances and offering healthier alternatives, parents, teachers, and community member can help create safer and healthier environments for young people. The impact of substance abuse extends beyond the affected individual, into the whole community. One estimate puts the annual loss to the economy in crime, lost productivity, and health costs at $193 billion.

Many resources are available to assist families and communities, and we’d like to share a couple. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy developed a National Drug Control Strategy PDF that outlines newer developments in drug abuse prevention and provides a blueprint to reduce drug abuse in communities. This document provides an overview of prevention efforts at the national level.

At the local community level, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has developed a group of resources for parents and educators. They offer concrete strategies for engaging young people in healthy attitudes and activities, while educating adults about the nature and scope of the problem. We encourage not only parents and educators, but clergy, civic leaders, and concerned citizens to learn more.

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