October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a time for all of us to take a closer look at what we—as organizations, communities, families, and individuals—can do to prevent substance abuse. SAMHSA applauds this observance, which is focused on preventing substance abuse before it starts and recognizing everyone who has been affected by this issue.
We support the observance, because we know that together, individuals and communities can make a difference in preventing and reducing alcohol and drug abuse. Substance abuse takes a toll on personal relationships, careers, and physical and mental health. It increases risks for chronic diseases, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases. Alcohol and drug abuse also increase the risk of mental health problems and can make preexisting problems worse.
Underage drinking is particularly worthy of our attention because it can lead to heavier alcohol use later in life. Research tells us that adults who first used alcohol before age 21 were more likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse than those who had their first drink at or after age 21. In America, approximately 10 million people aged 12 to 20 report consuming alcohol in the past month. 
In the face of grim facts, prevention is the silver lining. Prevention serves as a lifeline: by helping people develop the skills and resources for healthy lifestyles; by enlisting natural supports such as friends, peers, and family; and by applying evidence-based strategies to programs and practices. Communities can reduce consequences associated with substance abuse and improve health outcomes when they develop comprehensive prevention systems, cultivate linkages and partnerships, and conduct education, outreach, and training.
Several SAMHSA-supported efforts in 2012 put the spotlight on underage drinking prevention, with more to come in 2013:
- In SAMHSA’s fourth round of Town Hall Meetings since 2006, more than 1,500 events focused on mobilizing communities around underage drinking prevention and turning greater public awareness into more effective action.
- To date, 30 states and territories including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have partnered with us to develop videos highlighting their local challenges and successes in preventing underage drinking.
- Scheduled to launch on February 4, 2013, at SAMHSA’s 9th Prevention Day, SAMHSA’s Underage Drinking Prevention National Media Campaign will target parents and caregivers of children between the ages of 9 to 15 through radio, TV, and print ads; online PSAs; social media; partnership networks; and direct outreach.
Preventing underage drinking takes orchestrated efforts and individual commitment. During National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, join with SAMHSA to forge new partnerships to expand our reach and successes. I invite you to sign and share SAMHSA’s Prevention Pledge, find and distribute resources for prevention professionals and individuals alike, and lead by example and model healthy behaviors for those around you of all ages.
Our young people are bright and full of potential—get involved and do your part to prevent substance abuse.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings, (Center for Behavioral Health
Statistics and Quality, NSDUH Series H 41, HHS Publication No. SMA 11 4658). Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.