Substance abuse prevention saves lives, money

By Prevention First

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. This observance focuses on the role substance abuse prevention plays in promoting safe and healthy communities.

Underage drinking, non-medical use of prescription drugs, and illicit drug use take a devastating toll on our families and in our communities. Substance abuse prevention strategies have been demonstrated to work with youth. Such evidence-based programs and practices are essential tools to reduce substance use and help people lead healthier lives.

According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) “2012 National Drug Control Strategy,” each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18. 

An abundant need for continued substance abuse prevention exists in Illinois. The most commonly abused drug among Illinois youth is alcohol, with marijuana second, and tobacco third. While about one out of three Illinois eighth-graders report using alcohol in the past year, by the time they reach 12th grade, about two out of three report use in the past year.

As youth age, the likelihood of using marijuana increases such that about 13.4 percent of eighth-graders report marijuana use but nearly 38.5 percent of 12th-graders report using marijuana in the past year.

Past 30‐day cigarette use is reported by 4.6 percent, 8.8 percent and 16.3 percent of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, respectively.  Similar patterns are reported for other forms of smoking tobacco (excluding cigarettes) such that 16.1 percent of 12th-graders report smoking tobacco other than cigarettes.

While we have a need for continued prevention in Illinois, there are positive emerging trends in substance use. For example, past year use of any gateway substance (i.e., alcohol, tobacco, inhalants) is declining among eighth-graders. Stopping substance abuse before it even begins can increase a person’s chances at living a longer, healthier and more productive life.

Families, communities and organizations can become involved in spreading awareness and importance of substance abuse prevention in a number of free and easy ways, including the following:

• Host a substance-free party in October celebrating football season, Halloween or a birthday.

• Simply start a dialogue discussing your commitment to preventing substance abuse. Starting this conversation is the first step toward change.

• Families, coalitions and organizations can find facts to share via social media at

Posted Oct. 7, 2014

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