Substance Abuse Prevention Month

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

October marks National Substance Prevention Month, a month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of substance abuse. First recognized in 2011, it serves as a time to shine a light on the destruction caused by drugs and alcohol. It’s a time to highlight the need for substance abuse prevention, recognize those in recovery, and remember those who lost their lives to substance abuse.

Substance abuse is a growing problem throughout the United States. Millions of Americans suffer from the effects of substances, from alcohol to prescription medications to illicit drugs. Although studies showed a slight decline in substance use disorders between 2018 and 2019, the research from 2020 is alarming.

Rates of substance and alcohol abuse skyrocketed in 2020. 28.3 million people had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2020, almost doubling the 14.5 million people with AUD in 2019. 18.4 million people had illicit drug use disorder, up from 8.3 million people in 2019.

With research revealing such an alarming number of people struggling with substance abuse, there’s never been a greater need for more prevention and awareness. The impact of substance abuse expands far beyond the person abusing drugs or alcohol; it affects their parents, children, siblings, friends, colleagues, and more.

Where does the line between substance use and abuse lie? How widespread of a problem is drug and alcohol use? What role does Substance Abuse Prevention Month play and how can people find help? Continue reading to learn more about the impact of drugs and alcohol, what Substance Abuse Prevention Month can do, and where to seek help for substance abuse.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse refers to the consumption of mind-altering substances to the point that it causes negative outcomes. Most people who use substances recreationally never cross the line into substance abuse. They only drink or use occasionally and their casual use doesn’t get to a point that it affects their lives negatively.

On the other hand, some people use drugs or alcohol to the point that a substance use disorder develops. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a progressive condition meaning the longer a person drinks or uses drugs for, the worse their condition becomes. Individuals with SUD no longer drink or use only for social reasons; they use substances for their mind-altering effects.

Over time, these effects cause a change in brain function that impacts learning, decision making, judgment, memory, and behavior control. Substance abuse often leads to negative consequences but most people with SUD continue using despite any problems that arise.

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The progression from casual use to abuse can be slow and subtle or fast and glaring. Different people have different experiences with their substance abuse but the results tend to be similar. Long-term abuse often results in long-term physical and psychological effects. Ultimately, if someone doesn’t receive the help they need to stop, substance abuse can be fatal.

Substance Abuse Statistics

Millions of people use alcohol or illicit drugs recreationally. Casual substance use is incredibly common among adolescents and adults in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 50% of people in the United States ages 12 and older (138.5 million people) drank alcohol in the last month. 21.4%, or 59.3 million people, used an illicit drug in the last year.

Again, not everyone who drinks alcohol or uses drugs progresses to substance abuse or develops substance use disorder. The majority of people never reach a place where their use is ongoing or negatively affects their lives. But others who enjoy the effects continue to drink and use past the casual point.

22.2% of the population, or more than 1 in 5 people, reported binge drinking in the last month. Binge drinking refers to a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to the legal limit. This usually takes about 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men over the course of 2 hours.

drug use in the United States

Substance and alcohol use disorders are the most serious forms of substance abuse. 10.2% of people ages 12 and older meet th