Substance use disorders can have devastating effects on physical and social health, such as poor academic performance, worse health status, changes in brain structure, and an increased risk of death from overdose and suicide. Substance abuse is the misuse of any substance, such as the unauthorized use of prescription drugs or the consumption of alcohol by minors. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is committed to promoting mental health and substance use prevention in schools and campuses, as well as providing safe learning environments. Primary care providers in rural areas can play a key role in addressing substance use by screening for patients suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), encouraging them to seek treatment, and referring them to appropriate treatment services.
Rural religious and church organizations can also be instrumental in promoting substance use prevention. While family doctors, psychologists, social workers, and pastors may be available in rural areas to provide basic substance abuse services or social support, comprehensive substance use treatment services are limited in rural areas. 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. The Strong African American Families-Teen (SAAF—T) program, implemented in rural Georgia, was successful and cost-effective in its mission to keep rural youth interested in school and away from illicit substances. For other evidence-based activities and interventions to combat substance use, see the Promising, Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Program Models section of the RHIHub Toolkit for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders in Rural Areas. In some cases, medical professionals need special training to prescribe and control medications that are successful in treating addiction, such as buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder.
For a step-by-step guide on how to implement a substance use treatment program in rural areas, see the toolkit for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in rural areas. For more models of substance use treatment and prevention, see RhiHub Models and Innovations for Substance Use and Misuse. Both environments offer mental health promotion and substance use prevention activities; however, schools and campuses in the United States face challenging public health issues such as harassment, violence, alcohol use, and drug abuse.