Delay, Don’t Play

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October has been designated as Substance Use Prevention Month since 2011. Although substance misuse has always been a cause for concern, the need for education and awareness has grown exponentially over the last few years. The pandemic created situations and scenarios no one was prepared for, taking a toll on everyone mentally and physically. 

  • Prevent Substance MisuseThe COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in people misusing drugs and dying from drug overdoses.
  • There were more than 99,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in the first year of the pandemic; an increase of nearly 30% from the year before. 3,304 of these were in NC- an increase of 40% from 2019.
  • Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate to reauthorize and improve existing programs that address substance use and mental health treatment.

Prevention is about delaying the onset of first use, whether alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana—the most commonly used substances among teens—until the brain has fully matured. Most scientists say this happens at the age of 25. The earlier someone starts using substances, the greater their chances of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), and the more severe their illness is likely to be. 

90% of Americans with a substance use disorder began using substances before the age of 18. 

This year as things return to a more “normal” state, there’s no better time to get involved in prevention efforts – especially with our youth population. Illicit drugs are being designed to appeal to youth to increase profits. Many rural areas aren’t equipped with enough mental health resources to reach those struggling with issues brought about by the pandemic, specifically related to youth, so they’re reaching out for alternative solutions. 

US legislators have seen such a drastic increase in youth substance misuse, they specifically deemed October as Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Month in September 2022. 

This is why prevention education is so incredibly important. Join in the celebrations for Red Ribbon Week, volunteer with Appalachian Youth to Youth (AY2Y), support the Mitchell-Yancey Substance Abuse Task Force, or simply sit down and talk with your youth about substance misuse. The Empowering Youth and Families Program (EYFP) offered through Yancey 4-H and FCS is a great way to engage your family in these discussions. 

For more information about any of the above groups or programs, please reach out to Niki Maness, (828) 682-6186.