Many people know and love October for the Autumn feeling and Halloween holiday. Several people say that it's their favorite time of year. Who does not enjoy jumping in leaves or preparing for the year's spookiest holiday?
Well, we do! However, we also wanted to point out that tis' the season for National Substance Use Prevention Month.
What is Substance Use Prevention Month?
Made a national event in 2017, National Substance Use Prevention Month (technically Substance Abuse Prevention Month) is a month-long event about preventing people from developing substance use disorder, acknowledging the role of family support, encouraging treatment, and spreading awareness for those seeking or in recovery. This goal is achieved through education and programs in communities, online or in-person (of course, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, online is the best option for this). Since it is not the main focus of October for many, it is important to spread awareness about this event to meet its goals and make it more popular. Three goals for everyone for this event should be learning about substance use prevention, pushing out facts, and changing the language they use.
Before we go any further, we do want to touch on that last point.
1st Thing You Should Know: Why Say "Use" not "Abuse"?
In the Recovery Community, it is a known fact that certain words and phrases can be helpful or harmful to someone's path to recovery. Particular terms like "abuse," "abuser," "alcoholic," or "drug addict" can be especially harmful. Put another way, if people combating substance abuse disorder (SUD) are addressed as abusers or other derogatory phrases, they'll feel guilty and ashamed instead of feeling encouraged and emboldened.
Several recovery programs and other organizations have covered this issue.
That is why we want to celebrate Substance Use Prevention Month, but we want to say "USE," not "ABUSE." For that reason, we are not calling the event by its more popular name of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, but we felt this was more appropriate. After all, it is better to heal without provoking shame and casting people away. This month should be a time of diligence on the part of recovery centers across America. Particular interest should be taken for them to examine how they use phrases that discourage instead of encouraging. During this month, we think people should spread awareness of these issues with how we address SUDs throughout the year and for all time.
Here are some other ways you can help others during this month.
2nd Thing You Should Know: Educating Yourself
It is easy to learn how to prevent substance use, and it is just as easy to get involved with an organization that seeks this goal. The internet is a great place to start. A simple Google search could be all you need to start your journey. You can ask all kinds of questions like: "What is Substance Use Disorder?" "How can one prevent it?" "What are some ways to spread awareness about prevention?" Research material can be as brief as a Blog or Facebook post or as long as a scholarly article. Here are some other ideas on how to further educate yourself:
1. Look on Facebook groups or other social media:
Aside from Google, many other sites, applications, and databanks can tell you more. Groups are even formed around the idea of educating people about preventing SUD. You can ask questions, make connections, and even share your knowledge or opinions in these groups. Many content creators will make posts about prevention, and you can follow these pages for updates.
Fun fact, some of these pages have special events like webinars or live streams where you can tune in and learn more.
2. Look into books on the subject:
If online is not your thing, visit a library or Amazon to print material about SUD prevention. You'll likely retain more information from books as opposed to online.
3. Talk to a SUD treatment center:
Don't be afraid to reach out and talk to an organization about asking what you can do to help prevent SUDs and ask if they have materials like newsletters, blogs, or brochures that can tell you more. All (or most)treatment centers have someone trained in psychology that teaches you more about the mental influence on the mind resulting from substance use and effective prevention methods to counteract these.
3rd Thing You Should Know: Now That You Know What to Do, How Do You Do It?
Now that you are educated, you can start to make fundamental changes through these methods.
1. Educate others:
Now that you've experienced being educated, you can turn around and tell others what you've learned. Speak to your family or friends about prevention and share facts that they should know that can help them avoid substance use. For loved ones at a higher risk for SUD, talk to them often, refer materials to them, and encourage them to do some research.
2. Join an organization:
Do you know how we mentioned social media groups and treatment centers? Well, you can always become a permit and active member of both. A team and network of people are more effective than any one person. That's why we urge that you look into ways to volunteer for organizations whose programs seek to prevent SUD. There are opportunities to get involved almost anywhere. Maybe your local school or community center is hosting a program. Maybe there is a nonprofit in need of volunteers. If you are bold enough, you could even start your own organizations to address this issue.
Tips for Yourself
Now that you've been informed about how to help others remember that you can not help anyone if you do not take care of yourself. Take this month to avoid risk factors for SUD like stress and peer pressure. Focus on your mental health this season and look for ways to prevent your risk for SUD.
One Quick Question
Before closing out this blog post and reflect on what you've learned, we wanted to ask one question. What are you going to do this month to address substance use prevention? Let us know on Instagram or Facebook, or reach out to us by email. Also, don't forget to share if you found the article helpful, and be sure to check out our other stuff.
Still not sure where to start? Below are some links that might be helpful.
Substance Use Disorder Prevention Models - Rural Health Infomation Hub
Substance Use Prevention - Hilton Foundation