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Youth Substance Use Prevention Month


In October, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is observing Youth Substance Use Prevention Month. The need for prevention has never been greater. Studies show that the earlier in life a young person starts using alcohol or other drugs, the greater their lifetime risk of misuse or addiction.1,2

  • In 2021, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose.3
  • According to SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.2 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past month, and 13.8 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 used illicit drugs in the past year.4

For prevention to be effective, we focus on what works. A Guide to SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (PDF | 3.3 MB) offers five steps and two guiding principles to put comprehensive solutions in place. We know, for example, that prevention works best when it:

  • Addresses risk factors and protective factors.
  • Operates at the individual, relationship, community, and society levels.
  • Addresses social determinants of health.
  • Is tailored to the unique needs of individuals and communities.
  • Is culturally competent.
  • Is sustainable.

We also know that early intervention is vital for youth. Every year that substance use is delayed while the adolescent brain develops, the risks of addiction and substance misuse decrease.1,2

A modern prevention system includes four elements (4 E’s):

  1. Early action (act early, across the lifespan and the continuum of care).
  2. Easy access (create and sustain barrier-free access to prevention resources and services).
  3. Effective delivery (deliver resources and services that are responsive to local needs and based on data).
  4. Equitable opportunities (develop and support opportunities for everyone to achieve optimal health — regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, geographic location, disability, and other identities).

Prevention saves money.

  • Substance misuse costs the nation hundreds of billions of dollars each year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.5,6
  • Prevention has the potential to reduce those costs dramatically. The average effective school-based program would save an estimated $18, per $1 invested, if implemented nationwide.7

The President’s 2023 budget request calls for increased funding to expand evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support, with targeted investments to support underserved communities, as well as to reduce the supply of illicit drugs and stop drug trafficking.8

This month and this year, connect others to evidence-based prevention resources. Here’s just a few of the resources available through SAMHSA:

  • “Talk. They Hear You.”® helps you start talking with your child early about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs. The mobile app shows how to turn everyday situations into opportunities to talk.
    • Screen4Success has just been added to the “Talk. They Hear You.”® mobile app. Screen4Success offers self-screening to support youth in understanding their health, wellness, and well-being.
  • Communities Talk helps you plan (or find) a local event to prevent underage substance use.
  • Tips for Teens and Underage Drinking: Myths vs. Facts provide facts, consequences, and help dispel myths.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline provides referrals to local treatment, support groups, and resources. It’s confidential and free, for individuals or families facing substance misuse and/or mental health issues. Call 24/7 at 800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 800-487-4889.

Examples of SAMHSA’s most recent grant funding include:

Throughout October and all year long, let’s celebrate all those who are doing prevention work in support of better, healthier lives for individuals, families, and communities. We’re stronger together, using prevention science to save lives.


1Grant BF, Dawson, DA. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (1997). Age at Onset of Alcohol Use and Its Association with DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse, Vol. 9, pp. 103-110.

2Grant BF, Dawson, DA. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (1998). Age at Onset of Drug Use and Its Association with DSM-IV Drug Abuse and Dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse, Vol. 10, pp. 163-173.

3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts. Ahmad FB, Cisewski JA, Rossen LM, Sutton P. Accessed at www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm on Sept. 19, 2022

4Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP21-07-01-003, NSDUH Series H-56). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

5National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Costs of Substance Abuse. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/costs-substance-abuse#supplemental-references-for-economic-costs

6National Institute on Drug Abuse. (January 2018). Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth Its Cost? https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/drug-addiction-treatment-worth-its-cost

7Miller, T. and Hendrie, D. (2008). Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis (HHS Publication No. (SMA) 07-4298). Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

8The White House. (March 28, 2022). President Biden Calls for Increased Funding to Address Addiction and the Overdose Epidemic. https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/briefing-room/2022/03/28/president-biden-calls-for-increased-funding-to-address-addiction-and-the-overdose-epidemic/



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