Eight million adolescents aged 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past year, nearly 5 million used an illicit drug, and nearly 4 million smoked cigarettes nationwide. Young people who continuously misuse substances can experience problems related to academics, health, relationships, and the law. Substance abuse also impacts family members, the community, and society as a whole. 

While substance misuse is a problem to varying degrees in every community,   community health assessments in Charlestown, Chelsea and Revere identified substance misuse as the communities’ leading health issue - specifically, underage alcohol use in Revere and opiate use in Charlestown. Community-wide, comprehensive responses to substance use have since been developed. This comprehensive approach to reducing substance misuse supports individuals in making healthy choices while also recognizing how the environment and social norms influence individual behavior. Charlestown and Revere have formed strong coalitions combining individual, organizational, community, and public policy efforts to reduce substance abuse.

In Chelsea, MGH's Chelsea HealthCare Center and CCHI, in partnership with the City of Chelsea, and key community organizations, have created a strong Community Leadership Team with a strategic plan and vision of reducing substance abuse and its consequences in Chelsea. This effort is a comprehensive, community-based and environmental approach encompassing prevention, early intervention and access to treatment, and includes policy development and social marketing aimed at systemic change that improves the lives of individuals and families and increases public safety in neighborhoods and the community overall.  

In Revere, the Revere CARES coalition has worked with the community to prevent substance use, especially among youth, earning the Coalition of the Year award in 2010 from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America for achieving positive substance abuse-related outcomes. Revere CARES' efforts have led to a decrease of substance use indicators among high school youth, as measured by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. From 1999-2013 students self reported decreased current use of alcohol, a decline from 59% in 1999 to 37% in 2013, a 37.3% change. Current binge drinking also decreased from 41% in 1999 to 20% in 2013, a 51.2% change. These declines in youth drinking habits were found to be statistically significant (p>0.05).  Revere CARES has achieved a key coalition goal of successfully changing community norms related to:

  • Parents not allowing youth to drink at home
  • Retailers not selling to underage customers
  • Police and schools’ enforcing consequences

In Charlestown, this community has also seen success in achieving their goals. Since the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition formed in 2004 to respond to the heroin and other opioids epidemic, Emergency Medical Services responses for heroin overdoses decreased 62% from 2003 to 2010, and drug related deaths decreased 78% between 2003 and 2008. In addition to addressing the immediate opioid problem, Charlestown is investing in prevention for youth by implementing science-based curriculum in elementary and middle schools. Preliminary evaluation results indicate that youth are more likely to think through the possible consequences before making a decision about substance use and more likely to say no if someone offers them tobacco, alcohol, or another drug.

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