With drug use rising, society requires new prevention approaches. The not-for-profit Center for US Policy (CUSP), in partnership with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and the North Carolina-based not-for-profit Community Impact NC (CINC), announced a national contest to identify the “Top 5 Emerging Practices to Prevent Substance Misuse.”

The competition aims to increase public awareness and advance innovative, sustainable strategies to prevent opioid and other substance misuse as the US re-emerges from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Reported impacts of the pandemic include more deaths due to drug poisonings,1 more adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive order,2 more adults using substances,3 more prescriptions for anti-anxiety and insomnia medications,4 more teens getting prescriptions for ADHD medications,5 more binge drinking6 among adults, more adults allowing adolescents to consume alcohol at home,7 and persistent unemployment.8

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“We are searching for initiatives that account for COVID and its consequences, and show promise in preventing substance misuse,” said Michael C. Barnes, CUSP chairman.

As part of the nationwide contest, CADCA will solicit its 5,000 community coalition members to identify successful prevention best practices that they used during the pandemic.

“The community coalitions that CADCA represents have been resilient and innovative in responding to COVID and its ongoing impacts,” General Barrye L. Price, PhD, CADCA’s President and CEO, said. “We look forward to sharing information on effective ways communities have adjusted their efforts to prevent substance use and misuse before it starts.”

The North Carolina-based not-for-profit Community Impact NC (CINC) is collaborating with CUSP to encourage adaptation and innovation in prevention, CINC will host a free, national webinar on September 24, 2021 to describe the “Top 5 Emerging Practices to Prevent Substance Misuse” and the winning organizations’ approaches to data collection and sustainability.

“Despite public health restrictions and, in some cases, budget cuts, prevention efforts carried on with resilience and creativity,” Anna Godwin, CEO of CINC, said. “We are eager to learn and educate other prevention professionals about agile strategies that reflect constant shifts in health, social, and economic circumstances.”

Contest entrants must be US-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations or local  government agencies. Submissions are due on August 2, 2021. Winners will be selected by a panel of 5 everyday people who are not affiliated with CUSP, CINC, or contest entrants. Winners will be announced on September 24 during CINC’s webinar.

Prizes include a $5,000 grant to the first-place winner, a $2,500 grant to the second-place winner, and a $1,000 grant to the third-place winner. All honorees will be recognized during CUSP’s fall 2021 campaign to advance sustainable new approaches to substance misuse prevention.

CUSP defines “substance misuse” as excessive or problematic use of a mind-altering substance (such as alcohol, nicotine, or an illicit substance), including use of such a substance by someone under 21 years-old; and use of a medication other than as prescribed or indicated on its federally approved label.

For more information on the “Top 5 Emerging Practices to Prevent Substance Misuse” contest and to apply, visit www.centerforuspolicy.org/prevention.


  1. Rivero E. Overdose deaths up 42% in 2020; largest increases among Black and Latino communities UCLA Research Brief. UCLA. Published online May 26, 2021. https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/overdose-deaths-increased-42-percent
  2. Anxiety and Depression Household Pulse Survey. National Center for Health Statistics / CDC. Last reviewed June 16, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm
  3. Czeisler MÉ,  Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) / CDC. Published online August 14, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
  4. America’s State of Mind U.S. Trends in medication use for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Express Scripts. Published online April 2020. https://bit.ly/3zttdtf
  5. Novotny L. More pediatricians talking about ADHD during COVID. Athena Health. Published online May 29, 2021. https://www.athenahealth.com/knowledge-hub/clinical-trends/more-pediatricians-talking-about-ADHD-during-COVID-19
  6. Barbosa C, Cowell AJ, Dowd WN. How Has Drinking Behavior Changed During the COVID-19 Pandemic? RTI International. Published online July 14, 2020. https://www.rti.org/sites/default/files/covid19_alcohol_survey_webinar_slides_071420.pdf
  7. Myers, A. Study Reveals More Teens Allowed to Drink at Home during Quarantine. Utah State University. Published online May 25, 2021.  https://www.usu.edu/today/story/study-reveals-more-teens-allowed-to-drink-at-home-during-quarantine
  8. Cohen P. New York Times. Published online June 4, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/business/economy/jobs-report-may-2021.html