Reducing Substance Abuse in Middle Tennessee: Strategies that Work

In Middle Tennessee, coalitions are striving to reduce dependence on potentially lethal substances, such as prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Studies have demonstrated that community programs that send a unified and comprehensive message about prevention can be effective in preventing substance use among adolescents. However, a major challenge of family-based prevention lies in the difficulty of getting parents involved, particularly those of adolescents at greater risk of drug abuse.It is also becoming increasingly evident that the onset of substance use early in life contributes to increased levels of use and abuse in the future. To address this, programs in the United States offer many additional services to drug users, such as condom distribution, referral to treatment for substance abuse, HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), counseling and testing for hepatitis B virus (HBV), overdose education, and the distribution of naloxone to reverse an overdose.

The mission of the Tennessee Prevention Alliance (PAT) is to inform and advocate for alcohol safety, substance abuse prevention, and public health policies among Tennesseans and legislators. Most adults with substance abuse problems begin using substances during adolescence and, therefore, relatively few prevention efforts have focused on adults. However, the symbolic content of the ban was maintained, since federal funds could not be used for the purchase of needles and syringes, but could instead be used for staff, rent, services, in addition to the exchange and other expenses needed to successfully operate a program. Of course, in addition to reducing access, each of these stakeholders can play a key role in raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. Project Towards No Drug Abuse (TND) is a high school-based program designed to help high-risk students (ages 14 to 19) resist substance use and abuse. One of the most consistent findings of research on the etiology of adolescent substance use is that social influences are central and powerful factors that promote experimentation or the initiation of consumption.

There are significant problems in researching the implementation of providing harm reduction services to people who use drugs in suburban and rural areas. While data on MTF trends have shown a gradual decline in the prevalence rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and many forms of illicit drug use among adolescents, there have also been increases in some forms of substance use and abuse. The TN Recover app is designed for people who are recovering from a substance use disorder or for people looking to learn more about addiction prevention. Cognitive risk factors for substance use include a lack of knowledge about the risks associated with it as well as the misperception that substance use is “normal” and that most people use substances. To reduce the prevalence of substance abuse in Middle Tennessee, it is important to focus on prevention strategies that target both adolescents and adults. This includes providing comprehensive education about the risks associated with drug use as well as increasing access to harm reduction services.

In addition, it is important to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse through community outreach initiatives. By taking these steps together we can work towards reducing substance abuse in Middle Tennessee.

Herbert Denbow
Herbert Denbow

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