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DHEC: National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month Shines Light on Need for Early Prevention

Oct. 28, 2022

COLUMBIA, S.C.As National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month comes to a close, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging residents to focus on early prevention by having healthy conversations with their children and loved ones about the severity of substance use disorder. National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month is observed annually in October.

“Substance use disorder does not have a face and affects those from all age groups,” said Emma Kennedy, the director of DHEC’s Division of Injury and Substance Abuse Prevention. “Each day, teenagers, men, women, and people of all socioeconomic status are being introduced to harmful drugs. Our goal is to begin education as early as possible to prevent new cases, while simultaneously working with those who are already struggling with addiction.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021. Additionally, more than 8% of kids ages 12-17 consume an alcoholic beverage each month, and nearly 14% of kids in that age range used illicit drugs in 2021.

In South Carolina, substance use has been a growing concern, with drug overdose deaths rising annually. From 2019 to 2020, the total number of opioid-involved overdose deaths in South Carolina increased by 59%, from 876 to 1,400, according to the annual Drug Overdose Deaths Statistical Report for South Carolina. The total number of all drug overdoses increased by 53% across the state, from 1,131 to 1,734.

To combat substance use disorder, DHEC and the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) participate in a statewide, coordinated effort to end drug overdose deaths through the Governor’s Opioid Emergency Response Plan. DHEC also works to support DAODAS’ Embrace Recovery Campaign, one that emphasizes that addiction is a treatable disease and recovery is possible. All told, more than 378,000 South Carolinians are currently living full lives in recovery.

“It’s important for residents to know about the many resources available to them to prevent substance use disorder, and fight against it if they’re already struggling with addiction,” said Kennedy. “But prevention and treatment must start in the household. Please have open, honest conversations with your loved ones and assist them in finding help if they need it.”

For additional information, visit DHEC’s page on substance use disorder prevention and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s page on the dangers of fake pills and fentanyl. To find out more about recovery, please visit