Solving problems would be much easier if we all had access to time machines. While that technology isn’t available to us, we do have the power of prevention at our disposal, which can reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes in the future.
Just like preventative health care can help you identify potential issues and diseases in the future, improve your quality of life and increase your life expectancy, working to prevent drug addiction can have an incalculable impact on a young person’s entire life.
Is drug addiction preventable?
Addictions are difficult to stop in their tracks. Changed brain reward circuitry, physical cravings, social habits and damaged relationships all make substance use a hard trench to climb out of. As a society, we are much better off investing in prevention from an early age when it comes to abuse and here’s why.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is preventable and various measures can be taken that reduce the risk of addictions developing. These measures are most effective when provided early on in childhood, and can even be targeted towards specific risk factors as early as preschool.
The NIDA offers several principles for drug addiction prevention work. Here are a few highlights:
- Prevention should focus on decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors
- Prevention should address drug misuse in all forms (illegal substance use, underage drinking, prescription drug abuse, etc)
- Prevention should be relevant to the specific audience population
- Family-based prevention should promote bonding as a protective factor against drug misuse
- School prevention programs should start early and aim to address risk factor behaviors, like aggressiveness, poor social skills and low academic performance
- Prevention should focus on fostering socio-emotional skills like self-control, communication and problem solving
- Prevention for middle school and high school students should reinforce self-efficacy and anti-drug attitudes
- Community prevention should span several settings for maximum effectiveness
- Prevention should address unique cultures while using an evidence-based foundation
The NIDA lists several other drug addiction prevention principles, and several other institutions promote the same ideals. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states that the best prevention programs are those that respond to the needs of a community, involve interdisciplinary collaboration and are based on proven methods.
Families, schools and workplaces can all make a real difference in preventing addictions in young people. While there are many prevention programs that operate on a large scale, there are also measures you can take within your own household to prevent drug addiction from affecting your loved ones.
How can you prevent drug addiction?
Preventing drug addiction is a long-term process. The first step in prevention is making the commitment to stick with it for the long haul. The work you put in to uphold these prevention strategies will pay off.
1. Establish expectations
Setting the standard that drugs are strictly off-limits might go without saying, but it’s important to reinforce this idea as often as possible. When the conversation happens once or is glossed over, with time, teens and young people may take this silence as permission, or feel that the rules have loosened up.
2. Enforce consequences
As a parent or caregiver, it’s your responsibility to enforce the expectations that you established regarding risky behavior or drug use. If your teen or young adult uses substances, hangs out with friends you disapprove of or participates in illegal activity, your response to these behaviors will send a message that either discourages or encourages more dangerous behavior.
3. Be aware of risk factors
There are numerous risk factors that increase the likelihood of early experimenting with substances, which is correlated to a higher chance of substance use disorders later on. Knowledge of risk factors is the best tool you can equip yourself with because it allows you to address the factors that can be changed.
4. Encourage emotional well-being
Teens and young adults are more susceptible to exploring illicit drugs when faced with stress, social pressure, family issues and emotional distress than adults. Before the age of 26, brain development is still occurring, with the emotional center of the brain developing faster than the logical faculties.
Strong emotional health can protect a young adult from falling victim to triggers to use drugs, so encourage healthy habits including therapy, self-care and coping skills.
Preventing drug addiction
Even the best, most effective prevention efforts can’t guarantee full sobriety for life, and teens and young adults are vulnerable to pressures that can’t all be controlled by parents, no matter how hard you try. If your child is struggling with an addiction, treatment can reverse the damage done.
Rehab After Work can offer the treatment you’re looking for. With teletherapy and in-person options, you can find compassionate care for the young adult in your life who has fallen into a substance use habit and needs support climbing out. Get help today.