AODS Launches ‘Substance Literacy Project’ to Increase Student Awareness and Knowledge


Administrators from the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services have launched a campaign to raise awareness around drugs and alcohol on Harvard’s campus through Instagram and Facebook posts and signs around campus.

The Substance Literacy Project — rolled out in early March — aims to educate students about possible risks associated with drug and alcohol use, as well as resources available at the University.

“We’re really looking as an office to increase and enhance our engagement with students on campus,” AODS Health Educator and Prevention Specialist Olivia A. T. Sevey said. “And so one goal being to kind of enhance students' understanding of the services that we offer and the other kind of being creating a process where we're intentionally communicating information about substances, risks associated with them, ways to reduce risk intentionally, creating a process where we're giving that information out right regularly to students.”

In particular, the campaign will focus on students’ awareness of different substances, effects of each substance, risks associated with drugs and alcohol, and the impact substances have on various groups on campus. The Substance Literacy Project will also inform students about how AODS can meet students’ needs, according to Sevey.


“We’ll have different content,” Sevey said. “It might be about a different substance. It might be about how we support students, but all of those are within our objectives of the project.”

The Substance Literacy Project — designed as a mass media campaign — constitutes part of what Sevey and Director of AODS Garrett O. Fitzgerald said they hope will be a multi-year effort to increase the impact that AODS has on Harvard’s campus.

“I think it is looking upstream a little bit and kind of creating a baseline of information for that engagement where if you see something and you have questions about the information that we put out or it sparks more questions that you have about a substance, to engage and contact us with questions about it or do your own research,” Fitzgerald said.

As part of the campaign, AODS administrators have circulated data to students about the potential impact of drugs and alcohol. Fitzgerald said they have cited statistics from nationally recognized organizations including the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“One of the things that has been really important to this too is trying to make sure that we’re putting out information that we've vetted by trying to find, like, good research on it and engaging in that way,” Fitzgerald said.

Sevey said she is particularly excited to receive student feedback about the initiative.

“We just launched it,” Sevey said. “So it’s very much the intention that we’ll be assessing it along the way — hoping for feedback engagement with students. If there’s a piece of content or a drug that people want to hear more about, that’s definitely something we’re here for. It is important to have the voices reflected in the content we’re giving out.”

—Staff writer Michelle Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.