The month of October is recognized as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, an observance designed to highlight the importance of prevention and promote healthy and safe communities.
Helping people avoid the pitfalls of substance dependence and ultimately addiction through prevention methods is one of the most effective ways to reduce the number of drug abuse related fatalities.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 20 million Americans, aged 12 and older, struggle with substance use disorders.
Unfortunately, the survey estimates that only 19 percent of those people will get treatment they need and deserve to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
Early intervention and prevention are key factors in stemming the epidemic of addiction.
The younger a person starts using drugs, alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, the more likely they are to develop the disease of addiction.
Substance Abuse Prevention Methods
While substance abuse prevention has been a focus since the days of “Just Say No to Drugs” or scare-tactic ad campaigns like “This is Your Brain on Drugs,” there have been advances in effective prevention models.
Some of the prevention methods include the following:
Teens and Young Adults
It’s imperative that programs target all teenagers and young adults, not just “at risk” groups.
The danger zone for substance use disorders is between the ages of 12 and 23, a time when the human brain is not fully developed and is more vulnerable to addictive stimulants and depressants.
Prevention programs are often aimed at youth who have already exhibited poor decision making. A more effective option would be to include an entire high school population, as this has shown to reinforce consistent expectations and lead to a healthier community overall.
Mental Health Awareness Training
Mental health awareness training is another area that is sometimes forgotten in prevention programs.
Educating teens and adults about mental illness helps people in a number of ways, such as the ability to identify and better understand poor mental health issues in themselves or others.
Also, learning that it’s okay to seek counseling or confide in others about issues of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, will reduce the stigma and get help for more people before they turn to substances used to self-medicate for coping with their problems.
Mental health and substance addiction combined can lead to a co-occurring disorder, which further complicates matters and usually requires dual diagnosis treatment for recovery to be successful.
Family Prevention Programs
Family-based prevention programs can enhance relationships and bonding.
Not only do some of these models include substance abuse education and information, but they can also equip families with better communication skills and help parents learn how to be more supportive of their children.
At the same time, families can learn how to effectively maintain strict no substance abuse policies at home for the parents and the children.
Community Prevention Programs
Sometimes it’s necessary to observe and adjust prevention programs to speak to a community’s specific challenges or issues.
While all forms of substance abuse education should definitely be addressed, focusing on a community-wide problem can reinforce positive decision-making when it comes to those specific encounters.
Many cities and communities around the country have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and it impacts everyone who lives there, not just those who have a dependence or addiction to opioids or heroin.
It requires all residences of the community to take part in prevention techniques and education, or at the very least to learn more about addiction and why it isn’t simply a moral failing or weakness.
Substance Abuse Prevention Resources
This month, take the opportunity to embrace National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and learn how you can play a part in keeping not just your loved ones safe, but help promote community-wide healing and health.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides incredible prevention resources for parents, teachers and anyone else interested in knowing more about how to protect those most vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction.
One such resource is a very helpful brief entitled, “Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents,” that includes 16 Prevention Principles based on research and can be used by community leaders and educators to implement effective prevention programs in their area.