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Drug Prevention Programs

Drug prevention programs are an essential component of drug treatment. This is because substance abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction are powerful cyclic conditions that need to be mitigated before they even happen.

In most cases, people who engage in substance abuse often experience negative consequences on their health and wellness, as well as in their relationships, careers, and lives. Although addiction is a chronic condition that can be managed and treated, it may always carry the risk of certain relapse for anyone who experiences drug or alcohol addiction.

With this knowledge, therefore, prevention is always the best policy with regards to drug addiction treatment. This is because most of the problems, symptoms, and effects commonly associated with addiction tend to be difficult to deal with. As such, the only way you can keep yourself free of the power of intoxicating, mind altering, and addictive drugs is to ensure that you never start using in the first place.

Today, millions of dollars are expended every year on drug prevention programs as well as on substance abuse education for this reason. In particular, bodies such as the CSAP (the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention) work tirelessly to come up with verifiable evidence-based strategies to prevent the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Many other organizations and initiatives around the country have also united around this common goal. Despite all these efforts, however, addiction continues spreading and affecting millions of Americans.

To this end, you might ask why there are so many addiction prevention programs in place and yet they have not effectively stemmed the tide of the drug epidemic. Similarly, you may wonder the role they play.

Answering these questions is by no means easy. In fact, a couple of the best known drug prevention programs tend to be the least effective in accomplishing their goals. In spite of this fact, however, some programs have been successful in preventing substance abuse - particularly those that rely on evidence-based approaches.

Read on to find out more about the typical drug prevention program, what works, what does not work, and the important steps you need to take:

Understanding Drug Prevention Programs

So, what exactly is a drug prevention program? From the words used, it sounds quite simple - and it actually is, at least at the very core. In most cases, however, drug prevention programs refer to the plans and strategies put in place to stop people from abusing alcohol and drugs before they even start.

These programs work in much the same way as drug treatment in the sense that they always have constantly moving targets that may continue evolving with improvements in the analysis of prevention research as well as about what has been found to work and what is ineffective.

Generally speaking, however, the crux of any drug prevention program is to try and change behavior in such a way that people are less likely to start abusing intoxicating and mind altering substances or to continue to do so in the future.

In most cases, therefore, the theories that are used for the large majority of these successful programs are rooted heavily in behavioral science and psychology. Most of them are also tied to specific settings, such as at home, in communities, churches, and schools. To this end, the information is typically adapted in such a way it can be used effectively in each of the individual settings for the specific target audience it is aimed at.

Another thing to note about drug prevention programs is that it is likely drug treatment in the sense that there is no universal or one size fits all approach that works for everyone. In fact, the ideal drug prevention program should be extremely local in nature so that it can deal with the particular needs and circumstances of the individuals there.

In the past, however, this fact of drug prevention and treatment was not always as widespread and accepted as it is today. At the time, most of these programs focused on some ineffective practices - some of which eventually turned out to be misleading.

For instance, fear and misinformation was used to send messages about drug abuse, including but not limited to Reefer Madness, a film produced in 1936. Although the film wasn't a drug prevention program, it is still representative of classic anti-substance abuse media used at the time.

In recent years, research has uncovered new information and findings that have helped improve the practice of drug prevention.

Popular American Drug Prevention Programs

In the United States, most drug prevention programs are aimed at helping students and young people ensure that they never start using. This is because substance abuse and addiction tend to begin in the late childhood years, during adolescence, and in early adulthood.

Over the years, several programs have been implemented in the country, with some producing more successful outcomes than others. These programs include but are not limited to:

  • CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Programs
  • Programs designed by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools
  • Programs from NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Programs from NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Various University- and college-led programs

In the country, many individual school districts also set up unique drug prevention programs. Through such programs, they are better able to take care of the needs and requirements of local students, which might be different from those of students located in other parts of the country.

Additionally, INL (the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs) also directly involves itself in the field of drug prevention. Over the past 30 years, the department has sponsored many different prevention programs. According to the body, these services and programs have helped save many lives. In most cases, any INL drug prevention program will have the following goals:

  • Decreasing the overall use of drugs
  • Delaying the onset of substance abuse as much as possible
  • Diminishing the presence of at risk groups, such as gangs that could propagate substance use
  • Establishing self-sustaining drug prevention, education, and programs in other countries.
  • Reducing criminal behavior arising from substance abuse
  • Reducing the number of deaths and fatal incidents involving drugs and other intoxicating substances
  • Reducing violence tied to drug use

Some of these programs have produced outstanding results and success rates whereas some of them have not.

Preventing Drug Abuse Through Mental Health

In most cases, people never realize that drug use often goes hand in hand with mental illness - especially when these people have a high risk of starting to use drugs. In some cases, you might not realize that you have mental health issues. Although you might already be aware of some symptoms, you may not be sure what you need to look for or what is wrong with you. Over time, you might come to realize that engaging in substance abuse helps to make you feel better - even if it is usually for a given period of time.

According to SAMHSA, research shows that substance use disorders and mental health are directly related. Consider the following statistics from the body:

  • More than 9.8 million American adults had an active mental illness in 2014
  • Among these people, 1.7 million of them were aged between 18 and 25
  • In the same year, 22.5 million people in the entire population aged 12 and older required treatment for severe substance abuse and addiction
  • In 2013, also, 8 million American adults admitted that they needed mental health treatment

Although it is interesting that these disorders tend to occur together, it does not necessarily mean that one will cause the other. For so many people, however, this is usually the case. When this happens, it might be difficult even for the highest trained experts to determine the condition that came first and which arise as a direct result of the other.

In most cases, there are 3 typical scenarios that tend to be examined before drug prevention programs can determine the actual nature of the conditions. These include:

i) Drug Abuse Came First

If you abuse intoxicating, mind altering, and addictive substances, you might develop mental health problems. This is because alcohol and drugs often cause intense changes in the structure and function of the brain.

ii) Mental Illness Came First

Many people with mental health problems tend to leave them untreated for a long time. In some cases, they might start looking for other ways to self-treat themselves instead of receiving the medical assistance and care they so desperately need.

When this happens, they may try intoxicating substances to see if they will get the relief they need. However, such self-medication only tends to work for a relatively short time period. In the long run, therefore, the results you attain might not last. Eventually, your continued substance abuse may even exacerbate your mental health condition and yield even more signs and symptoms of both situations.

iii) Both Conditions Have Different Causes

Last but not least, both conditions might have been caused by something else, such as brain deficits, stress, and trauma, as well as genetic issues.

As you undergo treatment for drug abuse and addiction, the condition that came first won't really matter. In most cases, therefore, both conditions will have to be dealt with at roughly the same time. By so doing, the treatment and rehabilitation facility can ensure that the client is completely healed.

On both accounts, however, you can be sure that a drug prevention program might prove to be the key to ensuring that none transpire. This is because mental illness can be - to some extent - prevented. This is even if it is only through the form of early detection.

Since both disorders often tend to emerge during the teens, it is not surprising that most age groups have their own prevention strategies. With an appropriate drug prevention program, greater awareness can also be raised about these issues. This is one of the main reasons why schools are still implementing these programs.

Features Of Effective Substance Prevention

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), it is imperative that there are improvements and advancements in all aspects of drug treatment - including but not limited to drug prevention programs as well as aftercare services. The government has also been investing copious amounts of money on the War on Drugs to help mitigate the substance abuse epidemic - such as through investments in research.

As a direct result, various long term studies and research papers have been critically examined and analyzed. From these findings, it is clear that there are certain lessons in the research into drug prevention programs.

Through these lessons, people can engage in the following proven substance prevention methods:

  • Addressing every from of substance abuse - including but not limited to underage, alcohol, prescription, and illicit substance abuse
  • Employing a variety of techniques, including open communication, interactivity, as well as exploring the unique circumstances surrounding substance abuse
  • Enhancing communication and family bonding
  • Focusing on social competence skills and academic skills in school-based drug prevention program
  • Maintaining clear and consistent drug messages across the various communication channels in the community
  • Repeating the drug education and prevention techniques in the long term to regularly reinforce the goals of prevention
  • Tailoring the drug prevention program to address all local problems as well as understand the localized factors of risk based on demographics and location

In most cases, any effective and successful drug prevention program should be shaped around 3 main elements: delivery, content, and structure. It should also be tailored to match the needs and requirements of the target individuals because generic information never yields any positive results.

Overall, therefore, the most effective prevention plans should hone in on certain specific issues and work to address them in ways that the target population starts thinking, believing, and internalizing the idea that substance abuse is as unnecessary as it is undesirable.

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