The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is devoted to advancing mental health and substance use prevention in schools and campuses across the United States. Unfortunately, these environments are often plagued by issues such as violence, alcohol use, and drug abuse.
Substance abuseis defined as the misuse of any substance, such as the unauthorized use of prescription drugs or the consumption of alcohol by minors. In rural areas, there may be limited access to family doctors, psychologists, social workers, and pastors who can provide basic substance abuse services or social support. The Strong African American Families-Teen (SAAF—T) program in rural Georgia is an example of a successful and cost-effective initiative that has kept rural youth interested in school and away from illicit substances.
Substance use is any ingestion of substances that alters mood or behavior, such as alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs. Long-term use of these substances can lead to substance use disorder (SUD), which can have a negative impact on not only the individual but also their family and community. For more models of substance use treatment and prevention, see RhiHub Models and Innovations for Substance Use and Misuse. Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) is a program that monitors school-age youth to promote well-being and resilience in education by raising awareness about mental health in states, territories, and tribal communities. Rural religious and church organizations can also play an important role in promoting substance use prevention.
Unfortunately, due to limited resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery, substance use can be especially difficult to combat in rural communities. Substance use disorders can lead to an increase in illegal activities and have serious consequences for physical and social health. These include poor academic performance, worse health status, changes in brain structure, and an increased risk of death from overdose or suicide. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has published a guide entitled Drug Abuse Prevention among Children and Adolescents which outlines the risks associated with substance use as well as protective factors that can help prevent it. Although often perceived as an inner-city problem, substance use and misuse have long been prevalent in rural areas. For evidence-based activities and interventions to combat substance use, see the Promising Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Program Models section of the RHIHub Rural Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment Toolkit.
Additionally, there is a step-by-step guide on how to implement a substance use treatment program in rural areas available in the same toolkit. With the right resources and support systems in place, we can help schools affected by substance abuse in Middle Tennessee.