APhA-ASP Operation Substance Use Disorders


Operation Substance Use Disorders is brought to APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) through a collaboration with Walmart, Inc. It is an educational program in which student pharmacists work in their communities to prevent misuse of prescription medication, break the stigma of substance use disorders (SUD), support patients in recovery, and advocate for the profession. By educating and providing resources to people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, student pharmacists will raise awareness, prevent harm from prescription medication misuse, and support patients who struggle with SUD. APhA-ASP is honored to partner with Walmart, Inc. on this educational program to expand the breadth and depth of this important initiative to the communities surrounding our nation’s schools and colleges of pharmacy.

We challenge every APhA-ASP Chapter to collaborate with pharmacists, educators, community outreach programs, local organizations, and legislators in your area to make a difference with Operation Substance Use Disorders. Visit the resources section below for tools and resources related to this program.

Operation Substance Use Disorders National Liaison: Leeann Williamson (

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Background

Prescription Medication Safety

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States is not cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. It is prescription medications. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 5,700 youth in 2014 reported using prescription pain relievers without a prescription for the first time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of unintentional injury death is unintentional poisoning, at 102,001 deaths in 2021. This includes drug overdoses.

Substance Use Disorders (SUD)

SAMHSA reported that in 2014, approximately 21.5 million people aged 12 or older had a SUD in the past year. SUD is highly-stigmatized and not only does this impact those 21.5 million people, but it weighs on society. By changing behaviors and interactions from discrimination, fear, neglect, to extending support, high-quality treatment, and equal opportunities, we can better support our patients.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people to stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery. Like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction is usually not curable, however it can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's disruptive effects on their brain and behavior, and regain control of their lives.


As one of the most accessible health care professionals, pharmacists and student pharmacists can directly impact the lives of Americans through educating our communities about SUD. In addition, pharmacists have the same responsibility as prescribers to prevent misuse and abuse of prescription medications, and diversion. Advocacy to state and federal legislators, boards of pharmacy, and other stakeholders is necessary to further the profession's public policy goals such as allowing pharmacists to practice at the top of their licenses, increasing funding for SUD-related research to advance patient care, improving regulatory guidance around pro-actively preventing prescription opioid misuse, and easing access and affordability of naloxone.

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Goals of Program and Partnership

The goals of Operation Substance Use Disorders are to:

  • Increase awareness among pharmacists, new practitioners, and student pharmacists about the opportunity to serve as educators and health information resources regarding prescription medication safety and substance use disorders.
  • Increase awareness among community members about the potential dangers of prescription medication misuse and abuse, what substance use disorders are, and how to support recovery.
  • Provide pharmacists, new practitioners, and student pharmacists with information and skills necessary to effectively implement community-based prescription medication safety programs, opioid disposal initiatives, and naloxone training events.
  • Provide pharmacists, new practitioners, and student pharmacists with resources and tools to advocate for the development and implementation of a national prescription drug monitoring program and other initiatives related to furthering the pharmacist’s role in caring for patients with substance use disorders.
  • Provide pharmacists, new practitioners, and student pharmacists with information necessary to decrease the stigma associated with substance use disorders and assist patients to better navigate the recovery process.
  • Encourage student pharmacists to pursue residencies, fellowships, and careers in mental health and substance use disorders treatment and care.
  • Promote the role of the pharmacist on the health care team.
  • Promote the profession of pharmacy and its valuable role in the community and in the health care delivery system.

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Program Results

The launch of Operation Substance Use Disorders as an official APhA-ASP National Patient Care Project brings exciting new opportunities for APhA-ASP Chapters to make a difference in their local communities.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, student pharmacists achieved the following results

  • 112 chapters participated
  • 9,160 student pharmacists participated
  • 402 faculty and staff members participated
  • 489 pharmacy practitioners participated
  • 889 Operation Substance Use Disorders events conducted
    • 302 Education Presentations
    • 151 Medication Take Back Events
    • 191 Naloxone-related Training and Awareness Events
  • 90,914 patients educated
  • 2,011,297 individuals reached through public relations initiatives

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Resources

APhA Pain Management Forum
Educational program supported by Walmart, Inc. Topics include: an overview of addiction and recovery​, pain management best practices​, bridging the gap between pain management and drug diversion, using brief interventions in a busy pharmacy setting, naloxone (role and use in communities), and opioid alternatives.

Walmart, Inc. Opioid Stewardship Program
Walmart's mission is to help people "live better," and the Walmart Opioid Stewardship Initiative exists to help fight the opioid crisis by supporting solutions related to stewardship, education and advocacy. Learn more through the program's website.

DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

SAFE Project
Addiction and recovery resources for campuses, communities and other patient populations.

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Webinar Series for Chapter Leaders

A series of webinars hosted by APhA-ASP and Walmart are offered to provide an opportunity for student pharmacists and others involved in the patient care project to gain a deeper understanding of substance use disorders and topics related to the program. The attendees will be challenged to incorporate the lessons learned into their events on campus and in their communities. View the webinar recordings here.

Webinar 1 - Introduction to Substance Use Disorders and Ideas for Project Implementation (February 2, 2021)

Webinar 2 - Take Action! Advocate for the Profession and Your Patients (April 20, 2021)

Webinar 3 – Strategies to Stop the Stigma Surrounding Substance Use Disorders (November 2, 2021)

Webinar 4 – The Role of Pharmacists in Supporting Patients in Recovery (April 20, 2022)

Webinar 5 - Medication Safety 101: Top Tips for Ensuring Proper Use and Disposal of Prescription Medications (October 18, 2022)

Webinar 6 - Operation Substance Use Disorders: An Interprofessional Conversation (April 25, 2023)

Webinar 7 - Road through Recovery (November 4, 2023)

Operation Substance Use Disorders - New Practitioner Opportunity

The APhA New Practitioner Network (NPN) strives to provide opportunities for recent graduates to develop themselves and that empower them to utilize their knowledge and skills necessary to define the future of their profession. Many new practitioners are highly engaged in substance use disorder initiatives throughout pharmacy school and carry this interest into practice after graduation. To support the passion of new practitioners and further the prevention of substance use disorders, the APhA NPN has developed a research awards program for new practitioners, residents, and/or postgraduates who conduct research in the area of substance use disorders. Awardees will receive funding to support their research and support to showcase their work during a presentation at the 2022 APhA Institute on Substance Use Disorders.

Applicants must be new practitioner members of APhA. To be defined as a new practitioner, resident, or postgraduate, applicants must have a graduation date of May 2016 or later.

For questions about the opportunity, contact the APhA NPN Education Standing Committee.

Learn more and apply for the research award.

Operation Substance Use Disorders - Award Report & Recognition

APhA-ASP recognizes each chapter that implements an Operation Substance Use Disorders program in their community. One Chapter from each of the eight APhA-ASP regions are recognized during Midyear Regional Meetings. In addition, the eight regional winners, along with one national winner, and two national runners-up are recognized during the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition at the APhA-ASP Opening General Session and in Student Pharmacist magazine.


Recognition will be awarded to the top chapters nationally at the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition. Chapters receive the following cash awards:

National Award Winning Chapter = $1,000
National 1st Runner-up = $750
National 2nd Runner-up = $500
Regional Award Winning Chapters - Regions 1-8 = $250 

The top 3 chapters will be invited to Salt Lake City, UT to present their chapter’s programming at the APhA Institute on Substance Use Disorders held annually in June.

Regional and National Award Recipients

We are excited to announce the 2022-2023 Operation Substance Use Disorder Award Results. Join us in celebrating the 2022-2023 Operation Substance Use Disorder Regional Award Recipients. The National Recipients will be announced at the 2024 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Orlando, FL March 22-25, 2024.

Region 1 – Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Region 2 – University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

Region 3 – The University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy

Region 4 – University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy

Region 5 – North Dakota State University College of Health Professions School of Pharmacy

Region 6 – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy

Region 7 – Idaho State University College of Pharmacy

Region 8 – University of Southern California School of Pharmacy

Report Submission

To be considered for regional and national awards for APhA-ASP Operation Substance Use Disorders activities, chapters can complete an essay and submit a separate chronological list for the project events (e.g. Operation Substance Use Disorders Chronological List) within the APhA-ASP Chapter Achievement Report form. Guidelines and information on the submission process can be found within the APhA-ASP Chapter Achievement Report information

Thank you to the Supporter

Operation Substance Use Disorders is supported by Walmart, Inc