Young people are at very high risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs for a multitude of reasons. Growing up into teenage years can be very difficult and stressful, and many young people turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to escape or to fit in. Drug prevention programs have been around for decades, but it’s important to understand what works and what doesn’t. If it was as easy as having children attend D.A.R.E. assemblies in school, no young person would ever become addicted. In order for these programs to be affective, it’s important to understand why teens use and how their substance abuse can escalate.
Why do Teens Abuse Substances?
Teens are constantly trying to fit into the world and also succumb to high amounts of stress due to their education, possibly sports, as well as their home environment. Some teens even struggle with minor to severe mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. As young people continue to turn to drugs or alcohol as a solution to their problems, the more their brain begins to make connections with situations or emotions that makes him or her crave substances. This self-medication evolves into a dependency that can quickly spiral out of control.
A Child’s Environment Can Affect Substance Abuse
Aside from genetic predispositions and stress that a young person endures in their academic or social life, the child’s environment can play a big factor as well. Children who live in poverty stricken neighborhoods may be more likely to abuse substances than those who grow up in a middleclass household. For some, poverty can seem like a hopeless situation, and the only escape for the young person is to turn to drugs or alcohol. Others grow up in a neighborhood where drug dealers are idolized for the money they have or power they hold in the community. Some teens look up to this poor behavior and set their sights on living this sort of lifestyle.
What Makes Drug Prevention Programs Affective?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), drug prevention programs must be enforced in multiple aspects of a child’s life in order for the efforts to be affective. This means that parents can’t solely rely on the schools to warn children about the risks of substance abuse. It is a key factor for schools to teach children about the potential dangers and health risks of substance abuse, but the local community and parents should also get involved for these methods to be affective.
Teens often grow up thinking that discussing their feelings and emotions are embarrassing, so it’s important for parents, teachers and community members to break this stigma. A teen should feel comfortable seeing a school counselor or their parents if they feel like something is wrong. Even more-so, parents and community members need children to know that it’s alright to ask questions about alcohol and other substances without fear of getting in trouble.
Early intervention programs are also highly affective. When it’s been noticed that a young person is having emotional issues like anger or depression, or maybe they exhibit poor self-control, it’s important to address the issues right away. All of these factors can steer a child off course, but with quality drug prevention methods, children can learn to make the right decisions when it comes to using drugs or alcohol.