• Director Kerlikowske Visits Phoenix Multisport

    Last Wednesday, Director Kerlikowske visited Phoenix Multisport, a nonprofit “sober active community” for individuals in recovery from substance abuse who are seeking to make a transformation and choose a healthy, active lifestyle. Scott Strode is the Founder and Executive Director of Phoenix who, as an avid athlete, outdoorsman, and recovering alcoholic, understands firsthand the impact and the benefit Phoenix can have for individuals in recovery.

    Director Kerlikowske prepares for a training session at Phoenix Multisport.

    When Strode began working toward a sober lifestyle, he lost his old friends and social circle. To cope with these changes, Strode began hiking, running, climbing, biking, and boxing, where he found a peer network to help him in his recovery.

    Director Kerlikowske and Scott Strode in front of Phoenix Multisport.

    Phoenix provides the same type of network Strode found to be invaluable in his own recovery. Strode and 14 staff members offer support through sport with approximately 40 free events each week to anyone who is 48 hours sober. With chapters in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs area, Phoenix has seen over 6,000 individuals participate in its programming. Phoenix also has a special program offering support to members of the military and veterans. 

    CNN praised Strode for his work by naming him a CNN Hero in 2012. He was also featured in Newsweek, Comcast’s Newsmakers program, Renew Magazine, and a 25 minute documentary called “Turning Point.”

    Director Kerlikowske with the Phoenix Multisport team.

  • Advocates for Action Guest Post: Turning Tragedy into Purpose

    At the time our son David died in June 2010 after smoking K2, virtually no one had heard of this synthetic drug.  There was literally no information from the scientific community available—it was just too new. We made a decision very early on that we needed to do something; we needed to share our story in the hope that we could prevent this from happening to another family.

    We came across many terrible stories while searching for answers, but no one seemed to be connecting the dots concerning these synthetic cannabinoids. With an abundance of people pushing their drugs online and no place for parents and kids to go for the truth, we thought it was important to launch www.k2drugfacts.com.  Through this site, we started collecting stories from all over the country and gave families the opportunity to share their experiences.

    Working through our Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy and local coalitions, we continue to speak at many high schools, colleges, church groups, EMS providers, and anyone else who will listen to us on the dangers of these drugs.  We have done multiple interviews with every local and many national media outlets to help get our message out. This has been a slow, difficult, and painful process, but we know we are making a difference.

    We are excited to be working with The Partnership at Drugfree.org and their PACT360 program to continue advocating for action on synthetic drugs—preventing other families from experiencing the tragedy we suffered.

  • First-Ever National ‘Above The Influence’ Day

    Yesterday, ONDCP’s “Above the Influence” Campaign engaged youth from across the country to celebrate its first-ever National “Above the Influence” Day.  The keystone event of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, National “Above the Influence” Day turned the spotlight on teens in a national discussion centered on how America’s young people stay “above” negative influences.

    More than 200 teens and community organizations across the Nation participated in National “Above the Influence” Day by taking part in various youth-focused activities derived from the campaign, such as “Tag It,” “Be It” and “Express It.”  In addition, approximately 85 communities conducted teen panel discussions on the importance of staying “above the influence”, during which teens shared the positive and negative influences they face, including the pressures to use alcohol and drugs.

    Washington, D.C.-area youth participate in an influence-inspired discussion in celebration of National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at the Newseum on October 18, moderated by Carla Brooks, Prevention Services Coordinator, Covenant House Washington.

    In Washington, DC, I joined area youth in a panel discussion on how they stay “above it” in their own unique ways.  Teens from various community organizations engaged in song, dance, and poetry performances  related to their participation in the campaign’s “Express It” activity earlier this year. 

    Similar activities occurred simultaneously in three featured communities – Aberdeen, Maryland; Elkins, West Virginia; and Elko, Nevada .  Young people also joined in the ATI Facebook Challenge to share online what they did in their local communities on National “Above the Influence” Day.

    Youth from Aberdeen, Md., pose with Deputy Director Marilyn Quagliotti following their event celebrating the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County on October 18.

    America’s success in the 21st century depends in part on its ability to help young people make decisions that will keep them healthy and safe.  ONDCP is thrilled to celebrate and recognize teens who are rejecting the pressure of drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors and the power of community organizations to support our teens nationwide.

    Deputy Director Ben Tucker meets with local partners and teen panelists from Harrison, Randolph and Taylor counties in Elkins, W.Va., during the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at Davis & Elkins College on October 18.

    Throughout National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we will continue to join with Federal, state, and local partners to highlight the importance of prevention. Our collective efforts are the key to building healthy and safe communities across the country.


    Deputy Director David Mineta  addresses community partners and area youth participating in a panel discussion on influence during the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at Elko Convention and Visitors Authority on October 18.

    I hope you will get involved and join others in their prevention efforts during this month. Learn what resources and coalitions are located near you. Visit our prevention page for more information and read the President’s 2012 proclamation here.

    We know that prevention works and, with your help, we can help keep Americans safe and healthy.

  • Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse

    As part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) launched a new online tool for parents to use with their families in an effort to prevent drug abuse. Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse  is based on research results from NIDA that highlight the essential role parents play in teaching their families about the consequences of the use and abuse of substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs.

    The Family Checkup, hosted on NIDA’s website, provides questions that guide parents through five skills beginning with communication, then encouragement, negotiation, setting limits, and supervision. Each question, developed by the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon, presents the skill by first explaining its importance.

    Each skill is accompanied by a video demonstrating both a positive and negative example of the skill in action along with suggestions for parents on how to communicate with young people. The information is also available for download as a PDF.

    This type of early intervention does a great deal to mitigate the potential for substance abuse and addiction among teens and young adults. By providing accurate information about the risks of substance abuse and addiction, and through practicing positive communication skills, parents can help prevent drug use during the critical teenage years.

  • The Need to Address Game-Day Fan Behavior on College Campuses

    Dr. Laura L. Forbes is Chair of the American College Health Association (ACHA) Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Coalition, and Dr. Tavis J. Glassman is a ACHA ATOD coalition member.

    The Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition focuses on substance abuse prevention and treatment specific to the college student population. An issue of increasing concern for our coalition is fan behavior associated with college football games. More than a mere nuisance, the high-risk drinking and other drug use associated with game-day fan behavior is a serious public health problem and an issue that universities and surrounding communities need to address.

    Scope of the Problem

    • The high-risk drinking that takes place on game day is associated with a variety of negative consequences, such as drinking and driving, injury, loss of memory (e.g., blacking out), urinating in public, and vandalism. These consequences are not limited to those actually engaged in alcohol consumption, as non-drinkers also can become victims of secondary negative consequences.
    • No research to date has looked at the problem from a national perspective. However, a number of site-specific observational studies have documented the health threats associated with the extreme fan behavior often associated with game day on campus. For example, a 2007 study published in the Journal of American College Health about alcohol-related fan behavior at a large university in the Southeast found that college students and other fans tend to drink more on game day than during other social occasions.
    • While anecdotal evidence indicates illicit drug use plays a part in game-day fan behavior, there’s a strong need for research to explore this connection and more accurately determine its nature, scope, and impact on public health.

    Guidelines and Recommendations

    • Creating a campus coalition/task force to prepare for and manage game-day issues is a fundamental first step in engaging community and campus officials, such as those in Student Affairs, the Health Center, Counseling Center, Health Promotion Office, University Police Department, Athletics Department, Residence Life, student government, and other student organizations.
    • After conducting a needs assessment that looks at issues such as campus and/or community readiness and student substance use, the coalition can begin to plan prevention initiatives that include specific educational efforts, policy implementation, and increased enforcement.

    Report in Development

    • The ACHA ATOD Coalition is working collaboratively with other organizations and stakeholders to develop a report that will offer recommendations to help colleges and universities address the excessive alcohol consumption and related consequences associated with game-day fan behavior.
    • As with many other health issues, there is no easy solution to the challenges associated with game-day fan behavior on campus. However, by opening up a dialogue, stakeholders (including students and fans) can discuss, evaluate, and implement measures to address this issue and help make game days on campus safer for everyone.


     [1] Champion, H., Blocker, J. N., Buettner, C. K., Martin, B. A., Parries, M., McCoy, T. P., Mitra, A., Andrews, D. W., Rhodes, S. D. (2009). High-rish versus low-risk football game weekends: Differences in problem drinking and alcohol-related consequences on college campuses in the United States. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 21(2) 249-62.

    [1] Glassman T, Werch CE, Jobli E, Bian H. Alcohol-Related Fan Behavior on College Football Game Day. Journal of American College Health. 2007;56(3):255-260.

  • Residents and Businesses Unite to Reduce Substance Abuse in Chicago’s Chinatown

    Chicago’s tight-knit Chinatown enclave is the second-oldest settlement of Chinese Americans and home to over 75,000 Chinese immigrants and refugees. In an effort to develop a comprehensive program for substance abuse prevention there, the Asian Health Coalition banded together with various sectors of the Chinatown community in 2007 to create the Coalition for Asian Substance Abuse Prevention (CASAP), a grantee in the Drug Free Communities Support Program.

    Using the principles outlined in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Strategic Prevention Framework as a guide, CASAP aims to prevent adolescent substance use, decrease rates of alcohol and tobacco abuse among adults and youth, and build capacity at the community level to address substance abuse-related issues through a series of environmental and system-level strategies.

    Retail access to alcohol is a major contributor to underage drinking, and Chinatown has a high density of stores selling alcohol, with more than 100 liquor stores in a 3-square-mile radius. Police in the area have reported a lack of knowledge and complacency among local businesses regarding proper procedures for serving alcohol. Issues such as excessive alcohol consumption, fake IDs, and serving alcohol to minors remain prevalent problems in the community.

    Local assessments have demonstrated there are few resources in Chinatown for adressing this issue, and access to those available is often complicated by cultural and linguistic barriers.

    Chicago Police Officer Albert Choi, a member of the Coalition for Asian Substance Abuse Prevention, conducts a Responsible Beverage Server training session in Cantonese.

    The Asian Health Coalition recently partnered with the National Restaurant Association, Illinois Liquor Control Commission, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, and Chinese American Service League to create the first Responsible Beverage Server (RBS) training program in Chinese. The first training session, held in the spring of 2012, attracted over 40 local vendors and servers. Attendees were able to receive free instruction in Mandarin and Cantonese by bilingual trainers from the area who understood the needs of this unique community.

    As a result of this collaboration, the National Restaurant Association will make the curriculum available throughout the Nation for Chinese-speaking sellers and servers. Increasing awareness of proper operating procedures will help ensure better compliance among local establishments with state and local laws, create a safer environment, and improve the lives of everyone in the community.

  • Addressing Underage Drinking at the Local Level

    The Brighton Park Drug Free Community Coalition (Families Against Drugs in Area 58), based in Chicago, just completed our 7th year as a grantee in ONDCP’s Drug Free Communities Support Program. With National Substance Abuse Prevention month upon us, we recognize the importance of being unified across communities to influence a change in the cycle of substance abuse. Recently, our coalition has focused our efforts on the issue of underage drinking. Described below is one of our most recent – and most rewarding – youth events:

    An alcohol-free ‘Quinceañera’
    For young girls in the Latino community, turning 15 is a special occasion and one meant to symbolize their passage into womanhood. To celebrate this transition, families throw a "quinceañera" for the teen of honor. Once a proud tradition focusing on a girl's faith and values, quinceañeras today have become lavish parties with no shortage of alcohol.

    Families Against Drugs in Area 58 decided to go against the norm and challenge parental attitudes, which have accepted alcohol not only socially but also culturally, by throwing a quinceañera entirely free of alcohol.

    Participants in the alcohol-free quinceañera.

    During the planning of the event, we encountered considerable resistance to our decision not to allow alcoholic beverages. Many adults in the community did not support the idea even though, as we pointed out, the event was geared toward celebrating the young participants while also ensuring their health, safety, and well-being.

    We continued with our plans nonetheless and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the girls themselves not only accepted the idea, they were all for it. “I believe we can have fun without any alcohol present,” said one 15-year-old honoree. “Many American teens drink because of peer pressure . . . they think it’s cool. But I don’t think it’s cool.”




    October is National Substance Abuse Month





  • Join Us to Celebrate National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

    October is National Substance Abuse Month

    This October marks the second annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month – an observance to highlight the vital role of substance abuse prevention in individual and community health and to pay tribute to the lives lost to substance abuse. The Office of National Drug Control Policy joins President Obama in celebrating National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and encourages prevention efforts this month and all year long to ensure the health of teens and young adults.

    Millions of Americans suffer from substance abuse, which includes underage drinking, alcohol dependency, non-medical use of prescription drugs, abuse of over-the-counter medications, and illicit drug use. Approximately 23 million people aged 12 or older used illicit drugs in 2010.[1] This abuse touches all aspects of our communities and contributes to an estimated $193 billion in crime, health, and lost productivity costs.[2]

    Prevention strategies targeting the root of the problem are essential to curb drug use and help people lead healthier lives. Early intervention helps prevent substance abuse and reduce the negative consequences of addiction before they occur. Through community-based efforts involving youth, parents, educators, and government officers, we can strengthen the support systems that deter our Nation’s young people from drug consumption and improve both academic performance and workforce readiness.

    Each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.[3] Recognizing the power of prevention, we released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy in April to advance the Administration’s efforts to address substance abuse. The Strategy includes new developments in our efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences and outlines a research-based blueprint to reduce the rate of drug use and drug use consequences by 15 percent over the course of five years (2010-2015).

    Throughout National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we will orchestrate Federal prevention activities and support participation in the observance within states and communities. Our collective efforts are the key to building healthy and safe communities across the country.

    I hope you will get involved and join others in their prevention efforts during this month. Learn what resources and coalitions are located near you. Visit our prevention page for more information, and read the President’s 2012 proclamation here.

    We know that prevention works, and with your help, we can help keep Americans safe and healthy.


    [1] 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.

    [2] National Drug Intelligence Center.(2011).The economic impact of illicit drug use on American society. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Justice

    [3] Miller, T., & Hendrie, D.(2009).Substance abuse prevention dollars and cents: a cost-benefit analysis. DHHS Pub. No.(SMA) 07-4298.Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

     Note: This post also appears on the Substance and Mental Health Administration's blog here.



  • Cross Post: National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

    Note: This is a cross post from the Department of Justice's blog. To see the original post, please click here.

    This post appears couresty of Attorney General  Eric Holder.

    Got Drugs?

    Tomorrow marks the DEA’s fifth Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.   In conjunction with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, DEA personnel have set up hundreds of collection sites where citizens can turn in their unneeded prescription medications – at no cost, and with no questions asked.

    Already, this program has allowed us to collect over 1.5 million pounds of prescription drugs.

    Find a Take-Back site near you. 

    In recent years, we’ve seen that prescription drug abuse constitutes one of the greatest public safety and public health epidemics of our time, inflicting devastating, long-term, effects on individuals – and destroying families, neighborhoods, and entire communities – all across the country.  Studies have shown that more than 52 million Americans have abused prescription drugs at least once during their lifetimes; that every day 7,000 people begin misusing prescription drugs for the first time; and that, in 2008 alone, prescription drug abuse claimed over 20,000 lives nationwide. 

    As a former judge, United States Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General, I’ve seen the terrible cost of prescription drug abuse.  Today, as Attorney General, I’m committed to ensuring that addressing its causes and consequences is – and will remain – among the Justice Department’s top priorities.  And I’m proud to report that – over the last three and a half years – this commitment had led us to take bold, coordinated action to protect the American people.

    In concert with a range of key federal, state, local, and tribal authorities and partner organizations, the department has begun working to implement effective education, treatment, enforcement, and policy solutions.  Through initiatives like our Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs – and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads – we’re gaining a better understanding of this problem and we’re moving more swiftly – and more efficiently – than ever before to intervene in the lives of those who are at risk.  

    Our efforts have been informed, augmented, and strengthened by the work of leading researchers and law enforcement officials who serve on the front lines of this fight – and who have repeatedly shown that, when it comes to preventing, reducing, and combating prescription drug abuse, we stand to benefit from a variety of perspectives and approaches.

    Even more importantly, they’ve demonstrated that every individual has an essential role to play in this work.  Recent surveys indicate that more than half of those who admit to abusing prescription painkillers said that they got drugs “from a friend or relative for free”– not from their own doctor.   This illustrates the critical importance of getting old, unused, or expired drugs out of household medicine cabinets.  And it’s why the DEA has begun the Take-Back campaign.   

    During the DEA’s last take-back day in April, more than 4,200 state and local law enforcement partners collected a record-breaking 552,161 pounds of prescription drugs at over 5,600 sites operated in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

    With the help of citizens across the country, we are poised to build on these extraordinary results.  By cleaning out their medicine cabinets, the American people can help to clean up their communities.  We can stand together against crime.  And we can ensure that all of our neighbors – especially our young people – have the opportunity to live in drug-free communities and to lead safe, healthy lives.

     Find a Take-Back site near you. 


  • Cross Post: King County, Washington, Celebrates Recovery Month

    Note: This is a cross post from the Reclaiming Futures blog. For the original post, please go here.

    Many of the 29 Reclaiming Futures sites helping communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime celebrate Recovery Month, hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) each September. They, along with our King County site, which includes Seattle, Washington, are spreading the positive message that prevention works, adolescent substance abuse treatment is effective and people do recover. 

    King County convenes a multi-disciplinary planning committee (chemical dependency, mental health and community mobilization) to reach people across cultures and disciplines to reduce the stigma for people in recovery.

    They actively develop the Recovery Oriented System of Care model, starting with mental health and gradually including substance use disorders. This year, King County is working with their County Council to include substance abuse disorders in the recovery ordinance so that it becomes a behavioral health recovery oriented system of care. (The recovery ordinance ensures that the publicly funded mental health system in King County is grounded in mental health recovery principles.)

    Some of the most heartfelt work occurs on an individual level, in community discussions about self-care and support.

    For ten years, King County has sponsored an annual Exemplary Services Awards to publicly honor those who are promoting and supporting recovery. They recognize achievements and advocacy by individuals and programs providing mental health or substance abuse services. 

    On September 27, King County will honor the poets and artists in recovery who submitted their work for Recovery Month. Christina M. Johanneck's poem below will be featured at the event:

    Becoming Real
    Is a process of Discovery
    Is the healing Hope instills in me
    My transformation
    Is a beautiful affirmation
    This adventure
    Is an unexpected detour
    Every curve, every corner
    I yearn to push back a border
    Every voice in me
    Is a symphony 
    Repeating, beginning
    Harmonizing, Living
    Pursuing, believing
    My reward is our meeting
    We take turns learning, teaching
    Connections are earned
    By reaching, needing
    Giving beyond what is asked
    On the path of a bond unmasked.

    - By Christina M. Johanneck