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Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction take a heavy toll on the life, health, productivity, and performance of anyone it affects. To reduce or completely eliminate these problems from taking root, drug prevention should be instituted at different levels of society - from the family unit through schools and colleges all the way up to the community level.
Top Drug Prevention Tips
Although there is no way for you to guarantee that someone will not abuse alcohol and drugs, there are things you can do to ensure that drug prevention works. Some of the ways to achieve this goal include, but are not necessarily limited to:
a) Understand Substance Abuse
First, you need to understand the development of substance abuse. In most cases, it starts when you use addictive, intoxicating, and mind altering drugs - illicit, legal, and prescribed - for recreational purpose. This is usually followed by seeking out the pleasurable effects of these substances after each instance of use.
b) Avoid Temptation
Secondly, you should learn how to avoid temptation, which may or may not come in the form of peer pressure. This means that you need to develop healthy relationships and friendships by avoiding family members and friends who use substances and who try to pressure you to do the same.
In most cases, you will find that you eventually become like the people you surround yourself with. This means that when you spend a lot of time with people who abuse alcohol and drugs, you also have a high likelihood of developing their habits.
For many adults and teens, peer pressure comprises a major part of their lives. Therefore, one of the best drug prevention tips is to ensure you always plan way ahead of time and have good excuses for any opportunity others might take to pressure you to use drugs or drink alcohol.
c) Treat Mental Health Issues
Research shows that there are links between substance use/abuse and mental illness. Therefore, if you have mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety, you might want to seek professional help from counselors and licensed therapists.
These professionals will provide you with a variety of healthy coping skills that you can count on to alleviate the symptoms of your problem(s) so that you do not eventually turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with them. This is an important drug prevention strategy that you should never ignore.
d) Understand Risk Factors
In the same way, you should ask your parents and other adults in your family about your family history. Find out if you had other relatives - either present or past - who had mental health issues and/or addiction.
Studies show that addiction and substance abuse tend to run in families - but you can fight any tendencies in your family by understanding all your risk factors.
In fact, drug prevention will mostly yield better results for people who are fully aware of all the physical, environmental, and biological risk factors they face. This is because they may be better prepared to learn how to overcome them even before they become manifest in their lives.
e) Balance Your Life
A well-balanced life is something you should consider every time you try to learn more about drug prevention. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs when something is missing or has stopped working in their personal and professional lives.
To ensure that your life is well balanced, therefore, you should practice effective stress management skills. This way, you may be able to overcome anything that could throw you off your guard or which could stress you to the point where you start seeking drugs and/or alcohol to find some semblance of relief.
f) Focus on the Future
You should also develop dreams and goals for yourself that you can strive for in the long term. Focusing on your future will ensure that you are so busy working towards it that you have no time or energy to engage in substance abuse or to eventually suffer the fate that befalls those who eventually become chemically dependent and addicted.
Such focus will help you realize that addictive, intoxicating, and mind altering substances will only get in your way and maybe even prevent you from making your dreams come true or from achieving the goals you set for yourself.
Drug Prevention Principles
Even as you apply the tips and tricks we've provided above, there are many different drug prevention principles that you need to be aware of. These principles have been derived from years of research and scientific evidence - mostly on the origins of substance abuse behaviors as well as the elements of successful prevention programs.
Drug prevention practitioners often use these principles to address the problem of substance abuse among young adults, adolescents, and children - as well as other at-risk populations - across the country. Additionally, community leaders, educators, and parents rely on these principles to guide their conceptualization, planning, selection, execution, delivery, and evaluation of drug prevention programs at every level of society.
In many cases, drug prevention programs are designed to be used in a given setting - such as within the community, at school, or at home. However, they can also be adapted and used in other settings.
The programs are also planned out in such a way that the intended audience will derive maximum benefit from the lessons taught. Therefore, some of the programs might be geared for particular populations while others can be designed in such a way that they target more than one particular audience.
According to NIDA's drug prevention research, programs need to focus on the risks for substance abuse as well as other problems that might occur from pregnancy, through early childhood and adolescence, all the way to adulthood. In many cases, early intervention is one of the most effective ways to make drug prevention work.
That said, there are several principles that guide the field of drug prevention and everyone who participates in the process will benefit from learn more about and understanding these principles. They include, but are not limited to:
1. Reduce/Reverse Risk Factors and Enhance Protective Factors
The risk of substance abuse involves the relationship between different risk factors, such as deviant behaviors and attitudes, and protective factors like parent support and communication.
In the same way, the impact of specific protective and risk factors will change as you grow older. For instance, certain risk factors in your family might impact you greatly during your childhood while spending time with peers who drink alcohol and use drugs might comprise a significant risk factors in your teens.
Thus, drug prevention must focus on early intervention into risk factors like poor self-control and aggressive impact. This way, it might have a greater impact at that point than if it was applied at a later stage in your life. Through such intervention, you could change your life path away from potential substance abuse and addiction problems and instead shift towards more positive behaviors.
2. Address Substance Abuse
In the same way, drug prevention should address every form of substance abuse - either on its own or in combination with other forms. This includes the abuse of illicit drugs like heroin and marijuana, the wrong use of legal substances like inhalants, over the counter medications, and prescriptions, as well as underage substance abuse.
3. Focus on the Local
Additionally, it is imperative that drug prevention programs focus on addressing the specific type of substance abuse problem within a given community. By so doing, the programs will be better able to target all risk factors that can be changed as well as strengthen all the protective factors that were identified in step 1 above.
4. Focus on Specific Audiences
In most cases, drug prevention works more effectively when it is tailored in such a way that it can effectively address all the risk that are specific to a given audience or population given their characteristics.
Some of the common characteristics that are focused on while delivering these prevention programs include ethnicity, language, culture, age, sexual orientation, among many others. By so doing, this could potentially improve the efficiency of the program.
5. Strength in the Family Relationship
For drug prevention to work at the family level, it is imperative that the programs aim at enhancing family relationships and bonding. They should, therefore, cover parenting skills as well as practice in the development, discussion, and enforcement of family policies about drugs and alcohol. The adults in the family should also receive training on drug abuse through drug information and education to ensure that these family-based intervention programs are more successful.
In particular, family bonding is the foundation of the relationship between and among parents and children. These types of familial bonds can be taught and strengthened through essential skills training on parent to child communication, parental involvement, and parents supporting their children.
In the same way, drug prevention can only work if there is an environment of parental supervision and monitoring. Therefore, parents should be taught how to enhance these skills through training sessions on rule setting and enforcement, techniques they can use to monitor their children's activities, how to give praise for expected behavior, as well as consistent - albeit moderate - discipline to enforce any family rules that are broken.
Therefore, drug information and education for caregivers, parents, and guidance will reinforce all the lessons that children have been learning about drugs and their harmful effects. It will also open up new opportunities where those involved can have meaningful discussions at the family level to counter these drugs and ensure that children don't start using at an early or even a later stage in their lives.
Over and above everything, providing brief drug interventions that are focused on the family but offered to the general population may change specific parenting behavior to be more positive. In the process, it could potentially reduce all risks that children face with respect to substance abuse and addiction.
6. Provide Early Intervention
Apart from the above principles, it is imperative that drug prevention programs are designed in such a way that they are focused on early intervention. Getting into the topic from infancy all through early childhood all the way to young adult could potentially reduce or completely eliminate the problem for anyone who is at risk.
In the same line of thought, drug prevention should intervene at the earliest opportunity so that all potential and real risk factors for substance abuse are effectively address. These risk factors include academic difficulties, poor social skills, and aggressive behavior and tendencies.
7. Improve Learning
When prevention programs are provided for children in elementary school, they should be targeted at improving socio-emotional and academic learning. This way, they could address all the risk factors for substance abuse - such as school dropout, academic failure, and early aggression.
Similarly, education needs to focus on the skills listed below:
- Academic support, particular with regards to reading and comprehension
- Emotional awareness
- Social problem-solving
8. Increase Socio-Academic Competency
When the drug prevention programs is for high school and junior high school students, it should focus on increasing social and academic competence with the skills listed below:
- Academic support
- Drug resistance skills
- Peer relationships
- Reinforcement of all anti-drug attitudes
- Strengthening of personal commitment against substance abuse
- Study habits
9. Target the General Population
When the drug prevention programs are aimed at the general population - particularly those that are at key transition points (like transitioning to middle school) - it may produce many benefits even for high risk children, individuals, and families.
These interventions are successful because they don't single out at-risk populations. Therefore, they reduce labeling while simultaneously promoting the bonds these people form in schools and communities.
10. Combine Programs
At the community level, when the drug prevention program combines 2 or more proven programs - such as school based and family based programs - they tend to be more effective and successful than any given single program.
Overall, drug prevention is the responsibility of everyone in society - from toddlers and young children to teens, young adults, and other adults. Only through the application of certain key principles and evidence-based methods can it prove effective at reducing or completely eliminating the problems of and arising from substance abuse and addiction before they even happen.
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