What an 1864 Epidemic and Today’s Substance Abuse Prevention Have In Common

By Nathan Grounds

Substance Abuse Prevention Month

This October marks the 10th annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a designation designed to honor those who have lost their lives to substance abuse and to highlight the significance of prevention efforts nationwide.

Substance misuse is not something foreign to East Texans. According to the Texas Regional Needs Assessment, the average age of first use for alcohol in East Texas is 12.9, slightly younger than the state average of 13.1. This is important for folks who work in prevention, because age of first use is a significant factor in predicting future alcohol dependence. In fact, a young person whose first drink comes at age 15 is six times more likely to become alcohol dependent than adults who begin drinking at age 21, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Obviously, the goal of prevention is to see these numbers reversed, but how exactly is this accomplished?

Something In the Water

In 1864 a physician named John Snow was sent to London to attend to those who had contracted Cholera, an epidemic that was raging through the city. In an effort to discover the source of the disease, Snow began to map the housing locations of those who’d fallen ill. It wasn’t long before he made an alarming discovery: the vast majority of those diagnosed had drawn their water from a single source, the Broad Street pump. By simply removing the handle of the pump, thus closing its access, the spread of cholera was essentially eliminated.

One of the more significant acknowledgements in the prevention field today is the significance the environment plays in substance misuse. Like John Snow, substance abuse coalitions all across the country seek to analyze environmental factors within their communities that lead to substance abuse; things like easy access, low perceived risk, and social norms. Once these factors have been identified, coalition members plan and implement strategies to change the environment in such a way that young people are less likely to turn to substances .

East Texas Prevention and the Part You Play

Locally, the Northeast Texas Coalition Against Substance Abuse (NETCASA) is hard at work to make the environmental changes necessary to reduce prescription drug abuse. According to SAMSHA, two-thirds of teens who obtain pills not prescribed to them get them from familiar places like friends, family, or home medicine cabinets. Unfortunately, many adults do not properly dispose of their unneeded prescriptions, making it far too easy for teens to get a hold of.

To combat this trend, NETCASA has partnered with local law enforcement to host the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Takeback Event. This fall’s event will take place on October 24 from 10 to 2. Simply round up your unwanted prescriptions and drop them off at any of the participating drop sites. You can find a drop site near you on the DEA website or our Rx prevention website.

Can’t make it to the event? You can drop off your meds at one of the 30+ Rx drop boxes across East Texas. Click here to find an Rx drop box near you. Simply drop your medications in the box. No questions asked.

With your help, we can take a major step in preventing youth prescription drug abuse in East Texas.

NOTE: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the DEA Takeback is a drive-thru event only with no gatherings allowed. To ensure everyone’s safety, please wear a mask and maintain social distance protocols.