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Teen Drug Prevention
Many adolescents give in to peer pressure - which might not always be to their best interests - because they have an inherent need to be liked and accepted by those of the same age group. Although this might be a natural tendency that causes most young people to start abusing drugs, there are certain preventative measures that older adults can take to protect the young. This is where teen drug prevention comes in.
Understanding Teen Drug Prevention
In most cases, teen drug prevention means getting teens through one of the most vulnerable points of their lives. According to recent research, most people have a higher likelihood of developing substance abuse and addiction problems if they start at a relatively young age - such as in their teens or late childhood.
Therefore, teen drug prevention should be tailored in such a way that it postpones - to a large extent - that first drink or instance of drug abuse until the individual's brain is well developed enough to engage in responsible decision making.
Negative Consequences Of Teen Drug Abuse
You should never downplay teen drug abuse or alcohol drinking. Although some teens might grow out of the behavior, even those who are able to might still be subject to a variety of negative consequences - some of which could prove to be long lasting.
Some of these consequences include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Academic problems, such as suspensions and expulsions, as well as poor academic performance
- Ending up in justice system
- Mental health problems (including anxiety and depression)
- Physical health problems
- Strained and/or broken personal relationships with family and friends
The problematic patterns of drug abuse and addiction among the young might also lead to additional problems for the affected at school. On the other hand, it could aggravate or cause mental and physical health-related problems, cause traffic accidents, place stress on families, and promote poor peer relationships. Additionally, these problems could develop into lifelong/permanent issues - such as financial and social consequences, chronic health problems, and substance dependence.
That said, substance abuse refers to the harmful patterns of abusing intoxicating and mind altering drugs like prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana - among others. It often leads to distress and impairment characterized by the following behaviors:
- Continued drug use in spite of recurrent or persistent personal and social problems worsened or caused by such use
- Recurrent drug use, which could result in failure to meet and fulfil major responsibilities and obligations at home, school, and work
- Recurrent drug-related legal problems, including arrests for drug possession or disorderly, intoxicated conduct
- Recurrent substance abuse even in situations where it could prove to be physically dangerous, like driving which intoxicated
Thus, teen drug prevention is vital - especially given the fact that substance abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction might negatively impact all aspects of the affected individual's life and interactions. This is why child-serving systems often need to intervene as early on as possible in the lives of the young to ensure that they do not engage in substance abuse, to treat such abuse, and to support the young and provide them with all the tools, knowledge, and information they need to be able to choose the right course of action.
At Risk Teens
According to recent statistics, some teens might be at greater risk of getting started on substance abuse or developing problems related to such abuse. Therefore, recognizing who might be at risk might ensure that the teens who need help the most receive it.
Additionally, teen drug prevention often requires increased awareness of the characteristics that typically place young people at risk. It should also involve targeting these risk factors - particularly those that may be easy to modify.
NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) released a 2010 report titled Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents. In the report, the Institute listed a variety of factors that could mitigate or enhance teenage risk for continuing or initiating substance abuse.
Some of these factors include, but are not always limited to:
- Biological and/or inherent predisposition towards substance abuse and addiction
- Early exposure to drugs
- Peer group influence
- Quality of parenting
- Socio-economic status
Additionally, another retrospective study measured the interrelationship between the total number of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and future behavior related to substance abuse.
According to the study, the adverse childhood events or ACEs included:
- Criminality among the members of the household
- Growing up in a household where substance abuse was tolerated or engaged in
- Illicit drug use among parents and other adults
- Mental illness among some members of the household
- Neglect, both emotional and physical
- Parental discord
- Sexual, emotional, and/or physical abuse
Additionally, the study compared the number of these adverse childhood experiences - particularly those that resulted in a higher likelihood of substance use initiation below the age of 14 with the number of ACEs that were associated with an increased risk of becoming addicted.
It later demonstrated that every additional ACE later increased the risk of drug use for teens under the age of 14 by 2 to 4 times. It also increased the risk of developing other addictions later in life by 5 times. Similarly, the study showed that individuals with 4 or more of these ACEs were 7 to 10 times more likely to abuse illicit substances in comparison to those that had none.
Other studies have also tried to identify other risk factors for teen substance abuse, which could occur both at the individual and at the community or societal level. Among the societal risk factors were norms and laws that favored substance abuse behavior, including low minimum drinking age as well as increased availability of drugs/alcohol
From the studies, it was interesting that socio-economic status does not seem to directly correlate with an increase in the risk of substance abuse among teens. Only in those cases where there was a combination of extreme poverty with childhood behavioral issues did the studies identify an increased risk.
On the other hand, the personal characteristics that correlate positively with alcohol and drug abuse tend to be numerous. They include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- High levels of conflict and contention in the family
- History of academic failure
- History of aggressive and antisocial behavior
- Inconsistent parental discipline
- Lack of parental discipline
- Low harm avoidance
- Parents with histories of drug abuse and alcoholism
- Poor impulse control
To this end, it is imperative that those engaged in teen drug prevention - including community workers, schools, health professionals, families, and parents - understand and are aware of these risk factors. Such awareness could potentially enable them identify all at-risk youth and come up with new strategies to reduce or completely eliminate the risk factors and institute more effective treatment and prevention programs.
Other risk factors may, however, include teens who:
a) May Be Transitioning
Teens who are undergoing periods of transition - such as going from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school - might have a high risk of getting involved in substance abuse.
This is because such transitions might introduce them to new influences and pressures that they might not be used to or know how to handle. As a direct result, younger teens might be encouraged to abuse drugs or drink alcohol - which they could see as the ticket they need to be able to start fitting in with older crowds. Similarly, new social circles might introduce them to others who have already start abusing intoxicating and mind altering substances.
b) Might Have Mental Health Issues
Adolescents who suffer from a variety of mental health disorders might be at greater risk of substance abuse - and require teen drug prevention programs even more as a direct result.
In many cases, mental health concerns like anxiety and depression might manifest in these children from a young age. Those who have these problems might be at higher risk of having substance abuse and addiction problems.
c) Lack Positive Adult Influences
Teens from abuse and/or broken homes might not be aware of the risks and consequences arising from substance abuse. Additionally, those who grow up around caretakers and family members who drank alcohol or abused drugs might continue this cycle of abuse when they get the opportunity to start.
Success Of Teen Drug Prevention
School officials, community leaders, government agencies, and parents are usually on the lookout for the latest strategies on teen drug prevention. Although the problem is still nationwide, it is increasingly becoming clear that the rates of substance use, abuse, and addiction among adolescents have been going down over the last 10 years.
This might be suggestive of the fact that the teen drug prevention measures being put in place are becoming effective at reducing - if not entirely getting rid of - the problem of teen substance abuse.
However, officials and other stakeholders in the prevention sector say that the two main things that impact teen drug prevention the most are parental involvement and education.
Teen Drug Prevention Tips
Other studies have found out that adolescents who do not use cigarettes, alcohol, and other intoxicating and mind altering substances have a lower likelihood of starting to use them when they reach adulthood.
To this end, it is imperative that all teen drug prevention efforts beginning as early as possible through the encouragement of healthier behaviors and habits, education, and good familial and friendship bonds.
A supportive family, positive role models, and positive self-esteem could also help teenagers gain the confidence and knowledge they need to start making better choices where substance abuse and addiction are concerned.
In case your teen has a high risk due to any of the factors listed above or the neighborhood you live in is a high risk one, you might want to consider enrolling them in community programs through which they can learn the skills that could help them avoid drugs and alcohol.
Additionally, you should remember that even young teens have their own opinions about substance abuse. Therefore, you should start as early as possible to ensure that they learn all the skills they need to stay away from drugs.
The following are some of the teen drug prevention tips you might also way to use:
1. Act as a Role Model
Wither you are a parent, an older sibling, a friend, or a teacher, you should act as a role model to the teens in your life. This means that your attitude towards drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol should be such that they discourage the children from abusing these substances. In case you have a problem yourself, ensure you get help immediately. In case you are able to quit successfully, your teens will be less likely to follow in your path. However, even if they do, they might also understand the need to seek treatment early on before the substance abuse culminates into active addiction.
2. Be Consistent and Fair
In most cases, you will find that taking extremes in how you discipline your teen might increase their risk of drug abuse later on. Instead, consider setting reasonable consequences and punishments for any unacceptable behavior they engage in. You should also mete out the punishment when they deviate from your rules and expectations.
On the other hand, if they are successful, ensure you praise and reward their good behavior. You should also expect them to follow all the rules regarding substance abuse.
A good example would be to use a contract that notes all the expected behavior and rules as well as consequences, punishments, and rewards for the corresponding actions on their part.
Other teen drug prevention tips include:
- Connect with them so you know how they spend their time and who they spend it with
- Discuss drugs and all their associated risks and dangers
- Encourage them to engage in meaningful and productive activities
- Explain the consequences of the behaviors arising from substance abuse, such as unsafe sex, particularly those that are life-long
- Inform yourself about the substances that teens commonly abuse
- Monitor them at all times through phone calls, random visits, having neighbors over to watch them, and more
- Remind them of the legal consequences of drug abuse, including arrests, car crashes, and violence
- Set expectations for tolerable and praise-worthy behavior
- Share your belief system, particularly with respect to the effects of drugs on health, emotions, schoolwork, and more
Overall, early teen drug prevention and intervention is critical for success. Therefore, the earlier you engage your adolescents and teach them all there is to know about substance abuse and its adverse effects, the easier it might be for them to abstain and put off that first drink as long as possible.
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