October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month!

Yes, it’s finally here! October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and the challenge to be explored today is this: what are YOU doing about it? It’s easy to forget sometimes, as the holidays are approaching and many people are also focused on Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink or red ribbons, which will you be wearing? Maybe both! But right now, before the holiday season kicks in full-force, is the time to ramp up efforts to PREVENT substance abuse. The holidays are a time of year when many people struggle with depression, loneliness, and loss. And the other extreme exists as well, with holiday parties, family celebrations, and winter vacations, alcohol consumption- especially- can increase dramatically.

While the need for intervention exists year-round, prevention efforts are focused at this time of year, thanks to the establishment of Red Ribbon Week as a national event in 1988, in response to the kidnapping, torture, and murder of an American DEA agent by a Mexican drug cartel several years earlier. Nancy Reagan, 1st lady at the time of the events, had already been working on several nationwide drug prevention programs for kids and happily supported the Red Ribbon Week activities created by students at Calexico High School in CA.

Many communities hold Red Ribbon Week parades, special programming and events for kids at schools, and contests and fundraisers to support substance abuse prevention and intervention efforts in the community. A new activity that is taking place around the nation is “prescription drug take-backs.” Residents in the community are urged to “take-back” or turn in unused prescription drugs that are in their home medicine cabinets at a designated central location- often a lab, doctor’s office, or rehabilitation facility. The facility, in turn, safely disposes of the medications. This limits access of prescription medications to teens and anyone else who may be tempted to try them.

This is the month to focus our efforts and work together to prevent substance abuse. What is your organization doing to help prevent substance abuse today?