Drug and alcohol prevention starts with education. Educating parents and administrators about the problem and the resources that are available to put prevention programs into action.
Preventing mental and substance use disorders in adolescents and young adults is a critical issue. Behavioral symptoms often signal the development of behavioral disorders years before the disorder manifests itself. People with a mental health issues are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than those not affected by a mental illness. If communities and families can intervene early, behavioral health disorders can be prevented.
Data have shown early intervention following the first episode of mental illness can make an impact. Specialized services shortly after the first episode are effective for improving clinical and functional outcomes.
Why do some people develop substance abuse problems and others don’t? Although genetic, psychological and socioeconomic factors impacting the risk of kids becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol have been explored using longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, the concept of parental monitoring has emerged recently as the primary focus of substance abuse in children. Experts agree an optimal mix of prevention interventions is required to address substance use issues in communities because they are among the most difficult social problems to prevent and reduce.
Here is a great resource for college students on drug and alcohol prevention, education and wellness.
When young adults leave home for college or work and are on their own for the first time, their risk for drug and alcohol abuse is very high. Consequently, young adult interventions are needed as well. Research has shown that the key risk periods for drug abuse are during major transitions in children’s lives. The first big transition for children is when they leave the security of the family and enter school. Later, when they advance from elementary school to middle school, they often experience new academic and social situations, such as learning to get along with a wider group of peers. It is at this stage—early adolescence—that children are likely to encounter drugs for the first time.
When they enter high school, adolescents face additional social, emotional, and educational challenges. At the same time, they may be exposed to greater availability of drugs, drug abusers, and social activities involving drugs. These challenges can increase the risk that they will abuse alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.
Prevention Starts With the Family
5 Tips for Preventing Substance Abuse in the Family
- Pay attention to the friends your child chooses as his friends and take the time to get to know these friends–as well as their parents.
- Although it’s important to a child’s sense of independence and self-esteem to have a certain amount of free time, don’t let your children have too much of it. Get your kids involved in community and after school activities until they are old enough to work part-time or get paid to babysit or mow lawns.
- It is essential for parents to remain consistent when enforcing rules and enacting consequences for not following rules. Failing to make children experience the ramifications of breaking rules just once is enough for a parent to seem much less authoritative and sincere to an impressionable preteen.
- If prescription medications and alcohol are kept in the home, parents should check these items daily to ensure they have not been tampered with or used.
- Staying upfront and honest with your child about substance abuse means staying upfront and honest with yourself. Parents in denial about their child’s drug or alcohol problem may be destroying their child’s future as well as their own.
Talking with your child if you suspect they are using drugs or alcohol, don’t confront. Incited by anger and disbelief, confrontations only succeed in making a child feel abandoned by their parents and alone with their problems. Alternately, a calm, rational discussion is sustained initially by curiosity and then maintained by a compassionate, caring attitude towards the child by the parent.
In fact, parental monitoring appears consistently in theoretical models concerning the evolution of substance abuse and antisocial behavior in preteens and adolescents. Research strongly indicates that children of parents who fail to adequately monitor them tend to abuse illegal substances, skip school and “hang out” with peers who also use drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Minimizing the Risk of Addiction
Although it is difficult in today’s economically and socially turbulent society to maintain a completely stable home environment for their children, parents need to take deliberate steps to minimize conflict as much as possible and avoid exposing children to traumatic volatility in the household. In addition to upheaval in the home, other risk factors contributing to drug or alcohol abuse in children include:
- Siblings and/or parents who abuse drugs and alcohol
- Poor communication/attachment with parents (parental absenteeism)
- Child neglect/abuse
- Children who suffer from an undiagnosed or untreated mental disorder, such as ADHD, depression, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Living in overcrowded conditions with underemployed/unemployed/uneducated parents
- Witnessing consistent marital conflict in the home (yelling, hitting, threatening)
- Living in economically depressed neighborhoods with high crime rates