What is National Prevention Week?
National Prevention Week (NWP) is a week-long observance used to raise awareness and action around the prevention of substance abuse as well as to promote positive mental health. National Prevention Week strives to boost community involvement, foster collaboration among public health organizations, and promote the spread of quality resources on substance use and mental health conditions. NPW is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is held annually.
This year, National Prevention Week 2021 runs from May 9 through May 15, 2021 and coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month. Each weekday has a specific theme.
Monday, May 10: Preventing Prescription Drug And Opioid Misuse
On Monday of National Prevention Week 2021, the focus is on the prevention of opioid and prescription drug abuse. In 2018 alone, opioid use disorders affected approximately 2 million people across the country.1
Pain reliever use disorders affected 1.7 million people, and another 751,000 people suffered from sedative or tranquilizer use disorders.1 The majority of those affected were age 26 or older, but opioid and prescription drug abuse can occur among adolescents and young adults as well.
In many cases, prescription drug abuse is just the beginning. About 80% of heroin users started by misusing prescription opioids.2 For this reason, it’s important to educate people on the potential for prescription drug and opioid misuse, as well as get people opioid addiction treatment at the first sign of abuse.
Tuesday, May 11: Preventing Underage Drinking And Alcohol Misuse
Underage drinking is a serious issue across the country that can lead to alcohol addiction or alcohol poisoning. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 30 percent of teens have tried alcohol by the time they turn 15.3
When someone reaches the age of 18, this percentage increases to 58 percent. Even more alarming, approximately 7.1 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 who were surveyed in 2018 admitted to drinking a significant amount of alcohol within the past month.3
Because underage drinking is so prevalent, prevention is key. Young people need to understand the dangers of alcohol, the potential for abuse, and the legal ramifications of drinking before the age of 21.
Wednesday, May 12: Preventing Illicit Drug Use And Youth Marijuana Use
Despite the fact that illicit drugs can lead to a variety of negative consequences, people of all ages in the United States continue to abuse these substances.
According to SAMHSA, approximately 53.2 million people in the United States used illicit drugs in 2018, or almost 20% of the population. The highest rate of use was among young adults aged 18 to 26 where 2 in 5 people had used illicit drugs in the past year.1
Youth marijuana use in the United States is another issue worth considering during National Prevention Week. Although marijuana use is legal for adults in several states, it remains illegal for adolescents. The use of marijuana in adolescence or early adulthood has also been linked to several complications including in impaired driving, poor performance in school, mental health problems, and addiction as marijuana is often considered a gateway drug.4
Education and increased awareness can help to combat marijuana use among teens and avoid some of these issues.
Thursday, May 13: Preventing Youth Tobacco Use (E-Cigarettes and Vaping)
It’s no secret that smoking can lead to grave consequences. For years researchers have notated the negative effects on someone’s health. While these consequences are well known, the effects of e-cigarettes and vaping are not.
Unfortunately, many young people are drawn to e-cigarettes and vaping. They mistakenly view them as a less risky alternative to older tobacco delivery methods, but these drugs are particularly dangerous when used by adolescents as their brains are still developing.
To help raise awareness of these dangers, Thursday of National Prevention Week 2021 is about preventing youth tobacco use.
Friday, May 14: Preventing Suicide
The final theme day of National Prevention Week 2021 focuses on the issue of suicide. In 2018, 10.7 million adults in the United States had thought seriously about suicide, 3.3 million adults had made suicide plans, and 1.4 million had made a failed suicide attempt.1
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, but they are more common among people with substance use disorders and/or other mental health conditions. For this reason, it is important for these people to get behavioral health care sooner rather than later if they need it.5
On Friday of NPW, the goal is to educate people on the signs of suicidal behavior as well as raise awareness about suicide prevention. Resources available include National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.
This National Prevention Week, do your part to get involved. Share your story or volunteer with a participating organization. You will be surprised to see how much of a difference you can make. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or poor mental health, now is a good time to reach out for help. At Vertava Health, we are here for you.