drug-prevention

Preventing Addiction: The Importance of Drug Prevention

Drug and alcohol addiction can have serious adverse effects on an individual’s life.  It can affect them physically and mentally while also affecting them in work, school, or their relationships.  Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it.  With proper education and word of mouth to the community, drug and alcohol addiction can be stopped before it gets started.  

Did you know that by the twelfth grade, roughly two-thirds of American students have tried alcohol? Even though it is illegal for people who are younger than 21 to drink alcohol, studies have found that about one-tenth of the alcohol that is consumed in the U.S. is drank by teens between the ages of 12 and 20.

Drinking alcohol and using other drugs can have negative consequences on the growth and development of teens. The risk of developing substance use problems later in life is increased the earlier teens start using substances, whether it’s alcohol, other drugs, or both.

Drug prevention is absolutely essential for this reason. Addiction can take over a person’s life, so the best strategy for conquering addiction is to never let it take hold in the first place.

Are you wondering how to prevent addiction in both teens and adults? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

How to Prevent Addiction and Substance Abuse

There is no guaranteed way to prevent drug use in an individual. However, there are a number of things that can be done to help prevent substance abuse and addiction.

(Wondering how alcohol affects the body? Take a look at this article.)

Learn Why People Use and Teach Teens About Dangers

When it comes to drug prevention, knowledge is power. You can learn about why people use drugs and alcohol and how use of the substances can turn into an addiction. Using this information, you can teach your children to help prevent them from falling into use and addiction themselves.

People use drugs and alcohol for a variety of different reasons. Some of these might include:

  • Relaxation
  • Enjoyment
  • To avoid psychological or physical pain
  • To be a part of a group
  • Excitement
  • Experimentation out of curiosity
  • Rebellion

They can also use alcohol and drugs to relieve stress, overcome boredom, and cope with problems. When most people start using substances, they do so because of the perceived benefits and not because of the potential harm.

According to the National Institute of Health, adolescents might start using or continue to use drugs for a number of different reasons. These include:

  • To fit in or due to peer pressure
  • To experiment and have new experiences
  • Self-medicating for mental health conditions
  • To experience the positive feelings associated with substances
  • To keep up with intense pressure to perform athletically or academically (for example, using prescription or illegal stimulants)

Now that you have a sense of why people start using drugs or drinking alcohol, let’s take a look at how drug and alcohol use can turn into an addiction.

Learn How Addiction Develops

Addiction can develop in a number of different ways, and different drugs have different potentials for addiction. In general, people can develop tolerance to drugs when they use them repeatedly. This requires that they take more of that substance in order to feel the same desired effects, which can escalate their dependence on the substance.

A dangerous cycle can result when people repeatedly use substances. With some drugs, there are extremely uncomfortable and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if the person stops taking the drug. This means that they are compelled to keep using the drug in order to avoid these negative symptoms.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they are addicted until the problem has gotten out of control. An addiction can take over a person’s life, making use of the substance the number one priority over all other factors.

Build Healthy Relationships and Avoid Peer Pressure

For teens, peer pressure can be a major reason why drug use or experimentation begins. This outcome can be prevented by developing healthy relationships and friendships. People who pressure you to use substances should be avoided.

You may have heard the phrase that “we become like the people we are around.” This is quite true when it comes to drugs and alcohol, and hanging around people who are regularly using substances is definitely a risk factor for developing bad or addictive habits yourself.

For both teens and adults, peer pressure can be a big part of life. It can be good to come up with a plan ahead of time if you expect that someone will pressure you into using a substance. Having a strong support network and a collection of healthy relationships can also make it less tempting to try and fit in with another group of people that are using drugs.

Seek Help For Mental Health Conditions

It is not uncommon for substance abuse and mental health conditions to coexist in an individual. If you or your teen is dealing with a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s vital that you seek professional help.

When you find treatment for mental health issues, it means that you can learn valuable and healthy coping skills to deal with your symptoms. This makes people much less likely to rely on drugs and alcohol as unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Examine the Risk Factors

Anyone can become addicted to drugs and alcohol with regular use, but some people are at a higher risk than others. Understanding the risk factors can help you learn whether you or your children are at an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

There are physical, environmental, and biological risk factors that can increase the risk of developing an addiction. Further down in the article we will explore these in greater depth.

Learn Healthy Coping Skills

It isn’t uncommon for people to start using alcohol and drugs to help them cope with unpleasant emotions or feelings. People with anxiety, depression, and stress might find temporary relief from using alcohol and drugs to be a way of coping with mental health issues. However, this is not a healthy strategy and can have a number of negative consequences that shouldn’t be ignored.

There are a lot of healthy coping skills that can be used as a healthier way of dealing with difficult times in life or mental health conditions. These include:

  • Deep breathing techniques
  • Talking to someone you trust
  • Participating in talk therapy
  • Getting exercise
  • Spending time in nature
  • Keeping a journal
  • Embracing creative practices
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Taking time for self-care

The short-term relief experienced when using drugs or alcohol is not worth the negative consequences of addiction. When you adopt healthier coping mechanisms, you are engaging in practices that are beneficial for your mental and physical health in both the short and long term.

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

As a part of addiction recovery, people who have struggled with substance abuse will work to embrace a healthy lifestyle. For addiction prevention, the same tactics can be used.

A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a daily routine that involves self-care activities in addition to work, school, and family responsibilities. It also includes building a healthy network of friends who are similarly not interested in using substances.

It’s also important to avoid people who can have a negative influence on you. It is always difficult to cut people out of your life when they are toxic, but it is essential to your own mental health and wellbeing.

Physical fitness is also essential to a healthy lifestyle. There is a long list of benefits to exercising regularly, including:

  • It can boost your mood and decrease feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression
  • It can help you maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if necessary
  • It’s good for your bones and muscles
  • It can help boost your energy levels
  • It can reduce your risk of chronic diseases
  • It can improve the health of your skin
  • It can help improve your memory and brain health
  • It can help improve sleep quality
  • It can help you relax
  • It can work as a pain reliever

As you can see, getting exercise can serve as a healthier coping mechanism than drugs and alcohol and provide a number of other benefits on top of that.

Eating a healthy diet free from processed foods is also a good way to help keep your physical and mental health in the best possible shape.

Learning how to manage daily stress is also essential to addiction prevention. There are a number of different ways you might find helpful to reduce your stress levels, including:

  • Regular exercise
  • Breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Creative endeavors
  • Practices like yoga and tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Spend time in nature
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Spend time with pets

Being physically and mentally healthy is a long game. There are no quick fixes to feeling better, but instead, it’s the result of taking care of yourself every day in the ways that you need. That being said, you might be surprised how much better you feel after a brisk walk in the woods.

What Are the Signs of Addiction?

Most of the signs of someone being addicted to a substance have to do with their difficulty maintaining self-control. You might notice changes in a person’s behavior, social life, personality, and health when they have developed an addiction.

A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol won’t stop their behavior even if they understand that it is causing problems. They might also display a lack of control, such as using more of the substance than they intended to and potentially overdosing.

Some of the initial signs of addiction include:

  • Having episodes of binging on a substance without having remorse afterward
  • Seeking out situations where the drug is present
  • Having a family history of addiction
  • Experimenting with drugs
  • Being particularly drawn to a substance

With something as socially accepted as alcohol, it can be difficult to tell whether or not someone has an addiction.

Personality Changes

Some of the personality changes you might see in a person who has developed an addiction include:

  • Neglecting relationships
  • Negatively reacting to the people that are closest to them
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies that were once important to them
  • Missing importance obligations or responsibilities
  • Ignoring the negative consequences of their behavior and actions
  • Risk-taking tendencies
  • Increased secrecy
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Chronic fatigue

Health Changes

Health changes also might be noticeable. These include:

  • Increased tolerance to drugs
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  • Abrupt changes in weight
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Constant illness
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms like trembling, sweating, or vomiting
  • Bad hair, skin, nails, and teeth
  • Change in speech like rapid rambling or slurred words
  • Problems with recall or memory loss

Emotional and Mental Changes

You might also notice emotional and mental changes. These include:

  • Apathy
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression

It’s important to understand that many of these symptoms could point to another health condition that isn’t related to drug or alcohol use. There might be medical reasons that someone’s physical or mental health is declining.

People who have an addiction will almost always downplay how serious their condition is. If there isn’t any other explanation for the changes that you’ve noticed in them, it’s possible that there is an issue with addiction.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Drug Addiction?

The negative effects of drug addiction will tend to have long-term consequences in the middle or later stages of addiction. A person who suffers from a substance abuse disorder might ignore, trivialize, or even allow these outcomes as they are more concerned with continuing their habit.

Some of the potential long-term consequences of addiction include:

  • Dropping out of school
  • Getting poor grades
  • Getting an infectious disease, particularly through needle sharing
  • Arrests or jail time
  • Damaged relationships with family and friends
  • Tarnished reputation or loss of good standing
  • Loss of job
  • Failed mortgage payments or eviction from home
  • Loss of parental rights

When a person has an addiction, their problems can start to spiral out of control. As they prioritize using, other parts of life start falling apart and problems start compounding.

Risk Factors For Addiction

People of all shapes, sizes, beliefs, and backgrounds can experience addiction. A number of factors can play a role to increase a person’s risk, however, including their environment, genetics, medical history, and age.

Environment

The environment in which a person spends time can make them more likely to develop an addiction. Children and teens who don’t have much parental involvement, for example, are at a greater risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Some young people use substances to cope with their emotions if they experience abuse or neglect at home.

Peer pressure is also another major risk factor among young people and even adults. This type of peer pressure doesn’t even need to be aggressive, forceful, or overt. An environment of experimentation can lead people to use substances in an effort to fit in.

Genetics

Genetics can also play a major role in increasing the risk of addiction. In fact, heredity can account for up to half of your risk of addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you know that there are members of your family that have struggled with addiction, that tends to mean that you are at a higher risk of developing an addiction yourself.

It’s worth understanding that having a genetic proclivity to addiction doesn’t just mean that you should stay away from alcohol if you have an alcoholic parent. An addiction can manifest itself in a lot of different ways, including the use of other drugs or in behaviors like gambling or compulsive shopping.

Medical History

When a person has both a mental health condition and an addictive disorder, it is known as a “dual diagnosis.” When a person has an underlying mental health condition, it can increase their risk of developing an addiction. On the other hand, the severity of other mental health conditions can be increased by an addiction.

This essentially can create a very dangerous cycle. A person who had a mental health condition might feel that substances help to decrease their symptoms. However, in the long term, substance abuse usually makes mental health conditions worse.

There are a number of other medical conditions that can make a person more likely to develop an addiction. For example, a person who has been prescribed pain medication after surgery could be at risk of developing an addiction. It can also change your lifestyle to experience illness or injury in a way that encourages substance use to help cope.

Age

The age at which a person begins using substances is another factor. The most likely age to have both drug addictions and alcohol use, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, are people between the age of 18 and 24.

Brain development can be impacted by addictive behavior among the young. This can make people more prone to mental health issues as their addiction gets worse as they get older.

Drug of Choice

The type of drug a person uses can also have an impact on how quickly an addiction develops. Certain drugs are more physically addictive than others. For example, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine are more physically addictive than cannabis and alcohol.

(You can learn about what meth does to your brain here.)

Drugs like heroin or cocaine tend to have uncomfortable “come down” phases that can lead people to use again sooner and use higher doses. This can increase the speed at which addiction develops.

Method of Use

The method someone uses to take drugs can also have an impact on the progression of addiction. Drugs that are injected or smoked tend to be more addictive than drugs that are taken orally. This is because the former type of drug goes straight to your brain and bloodstream.

Common Addiction Treatments

Addiction is a treatable condition. However, it can affect many different areas of life, meaning that the best treatment plans or comprehensive treatment plans. Successful treatments will help the individual stop engaging in their addiction and stop seeking their substance of choice.

There are a number of common therapies used to help treat addiction. These include:

  • Medications to help treat underlying mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or depression
  • Psychotherapy including group, talk, and behavioral therapy
  • Inpatient addiction treatment
  • Medical services to help treat medical complications associated with the addiction
  • Support groups and self-help
  • Having an addiction case manager to help check ongoing treatment and coordinate treatment

The severity of addiction determines what type or types of treatment should be used. An initial meeting with a primary care doctor can help you discuss your options if you are worried you are struggling with an addiction.

There are also a number of lifestyle changes that are thought to help with drug addiction recovery. These include:

  • Engaging in physical activity
  • Practicing stress-relieving activities
  • Eating a healthy and nutrient-dense diet
  • Prioritizing getting enough, high-quality sleep
  • Making new friends that are a positive influence
  • Finding new hobbies and activities you enjoy
  • Creating and sticking to a daily schedule
  • Practicing self-care
  • Learning positive coping mechanisms

For people who need to undergo a rehab program in order to break free from their addiction, it’s a good idea to research the different facilities available in your area. The mission and philosophy can vary widely between different programs as well as the types of treatment they offer.

Do You Have a Loved One That Is Suffering From Addiction?

Drug prevention is the best defense against addiction. However, sometimes it is too late and addiction already has someone in its grasp. If that is the case, there is help.

At Southern California Sunrise, we offer a mix of traditional treatments and holistic methods to help individuals detoxify, stabilize, and rebuild their lives. We are a dual diagnosis treatment center that focuses on providing comprehensive substance abuse services for all common substances.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, contact us today.

References & Resources

  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019, April). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/whatiscan.pdf
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 10). Prevention Principles. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-use-among-children-adolescents/prevention-principles
  3. Robinson, L. (2021, August 04). The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm
  4. Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255
  5. Teen Substance Use & Risks. (2020, February 10). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/features/teen-substance-use.html
  6. Why try tai chi? (2021, February 26). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184