Worldwide, substance use disorders cause 11.4 million deaths each year. 1 While sobering, this statistic is unsurprising; addiction can impact a person’s physical and mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, psychosis, and a host of serious physical issues.
The world is focused on finding ways to prevent addiction, but is this a feasible goal or nothing more than a pipe dream? Learn more about the strategies that can help prevent substance use disorders.
Educating Children and Teens to Prevent Addiction
Educating children and teens on the impacts of substance use disorders is an effective strategy to prevent addiction. They need to understand the consequences such addictions can have on their physical health, mental health, and social lives.
The average age for the first-time use of an addictive substance is 14. Therefore, education on substance use disorders must begin early. 2
You may remember Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), a program that is still in existence today (albeit with a new purpose). Still, its effectiveness has become more disputed as time goes by.
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Detractors claim that one of the reasons D.A.R.E. was not as effective as it could have been was that policemen led the program instead of substance use disorder experts. As a result, D.A.R.E. emphasized the punitive consequences of addiction instead of focusing on rehabilitation.
These days, there are far better options available for children and teens, including:
- All Stars
- Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS)
- Child Development Project (CDP)
- Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA)
- Family Matters
- Keep a Clear Mind
These programs focus on educating children and teens more effectively than D.A.R.E. did. They include activities for parents and children to do together and community outreach opportunities.
Understanding Risk Factors
It is easier to prevent addiction if you know that you are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder than the average person.
Genetics plays a big role in substance use disorders and contributes up to 50% of a person’s risk of developing an addiction. 3 As such, people with a close relative who has an addiction are more likely to develop one themselves.
Your environment can also impact your chances of developing a substance use disorder. For teens and children, a lack of parental attention can lead to risk-taking behavior and the early use of substances like drugs and alcohol.
The availability of substances in your social group and the social component of using them can also impact your addiction risks. This is why peer pressure can be such a strong contributing factor when it comes to early use.
Another risk factor is the age at which you begin using drugs or alcohol. Substance use at a young age can impact brain development and can lead to other mental health concerns in the future, including addiction.
The substance and the method of use also impact the risk of developing an addiction. Some substances, like methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine, are more addictive than others, like alcohol or marijuana.
Prevent Addiction by Learning Healthy Coping Skills
Many people who have a substance abuse disorder turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with a mental health condition, resulting in what’s known as a dual diagnosis. Of people with major depression, for example, 18% have a drug use disorder, and 16.5% have an alcohol use disorder. 4
To prevent addiction, developing healthy coping skills is essential. Substances may seem like they help. But they actually cause more harm because they destroy the chemicals in the brain that are in charge of mood stabilization. Instead, coping techniques that can actually help include:
- Talk therapy
- Creative activities
Coping skills can help you manage your days without requiring harmful substances.
Learn More About Addiction
Whether you or someone you know is at risk of developing a substance use disorder, it’s important to reach out to experts for help. One of the best ways to prevent addiction is to inform yourself about what addiction is, so contact us at Desert Cove Recovery today to learn more.
Sources: https://ourworldindata.org/drug-use  https://nida.nih.gov/international/abstracts/age-first-use-drug-dependence-data-617-consecutively-ascertained-subjects  https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/genetics-epigenetics-addiction  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/