Deaths from drug overdoses have been steadily rising for the past 20 years. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 20.4 million people have a substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse is a commonly occurring issue that affects nearly every community and can severely impact individuals’ lives.
Every year, Red Ribbon Week is celebrated during the last week in October. This is a week for spreading awareness about the harmful effects of abusing drugs and alcohol. It’s also a time for bringing community members together to prevent future issues with substance abuse.
If you’d like to participate in spreading drug awareness and prevention, there are many things you can do to get involved. All of the following strategies can make a difference in your community and help people around you avoid the harmful effects of substance abuse.
Hosting an event can spread awareness of the issue while also uniting the community. Some people enjoy organizing fundraisers for the cause through walk-a-thons, 5Ks, concerts, or other fun activities. You can donate the proceeds of the event to an organization that works to end substance abuse.
Other supporting events include informational fairs. Volunteers gather to run booths and share information about the subject. There are many issues with substance abuse that leave many unaware. Booths can cover topics like the addictive properties of drugs, what to do in the event of an overdose, and how to find help for a substance abuse problem.
Not everyone has the time and resources to organize an event, but many options can still spread awareness and prevent substance abuse issues in your community. An easy way to do this is to discuss your knowledge and experience with people around you.
Unfortunately, common stigmas surround people who’ve experienced substance abuse issues, even though they’re common and often related to mental health, a lack of information, or genetics. Due to this stigma, however, many people refrain from discussing the issue if they’ve personally overcome a substance abuse issue, or if they’ve been affected by a friend or family member’s substance abuse disorder.
You can help by talking about either your own experience or the experiences of those that you know, if they feel comfortable with it. You can share on social media or in discussions with those around you. You should feel open to sharing your strategies for overcoming substance abuse issues because it’s an incredible accomplishment. When others see examples of those who’ve done it, they’re more likely to believe they can break their own addictions, too.
Substance abuse and mental health have overlapping tendencies. Around 50% of people with severe mental health disorders also have a substance abuse problem. Many people who struggle with mental illness can’t find healthy coping strategies, leading them to substance abuse. Helping people find ways to manage mental illness can go a long way in preventing substance abuse issues.
You can promote positive mental health by sharing resources with people in your community. Look into options for mental health providers and share their information on your social media and with people in your social circle. You can also encourage positive mental health behaviors by inviting people to join in mindfulness activities, exercise, or other self-care routines.
Another way to get involved in preventing drug abuse is to volunteer with organizations in your community that support the cause. You can look for opportunities with rehabilitation facilities or organizations that educate people about the effects of addiction.
There are also organizations that provide positive role models for youth. These organizations often rely on community volunteers. Volunteering in after school tutoring programs or organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters can help you connect with children and teenagers who may be at risk of future substance abuse.
Roughly 47% of people have their first drink before the age of 18, and research shows that people who begin drinking at too young an age are more likely to form an addiction. When volunteering to work with children who are at risk of substance abuse problems, you can greatly decrease their chances of developing an addiction.
Research shows that strong support systems and a sense of community decrease the risk of substance abuse. If you want to make a difference in drug prevention, community-building activities are one of the most impactful ways of doing so.
Community gardens are a popular way of bringing neighbors together. It gives neighbors a gathering space to gather and brings people with similar interests together. Either build a community garden on your own property or contact your city to see if there’s a space in a public park or city-owned area that could be used as a community garden. Be sure to spread the word to your neighbors that the space is available to grow and take care of plants, vegetables, and herbs.
Many neighborhoods have directories so neighbors can reach out to each other more easily. Neighborhood directories make it easier for people to ask for help when they need it. It also allows neighbors to more easily extend invites to a casual dinner or backyard party.
The best way to build a sense of community is to simply introduce yourself to the people you see living near you. Be sure to say hello whenever you can. When community members feel welcomed, they’re more inclined to turn to each other in times of need, and more likely to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like drug or alcohol abuse. When neighbors speak to each other regularly, they’re also more likely to notice warning signs of addiction and mental health issues. This allows them to offer support or find someone who can.
If you’ve noticed warning signs of addiction in a neighbor, friend, or family member, it’s important to show them that you care. One way to show your support is to share resources that can help someone recover from an addiction. You can refer a patient to a treatment program like Jackson House Rehabilitation Center, or you can simply reach out to a rehabilitation center to discuss what might be best for your friend or loved one.