Who wants to grow up and have a Substance Use Disorder?

Categories: Elite Writes

By Choice Pickins Newstrom, ADC-T

It’s not a secret anymore that using alcohol earlier in life increases the chance of developing a substance use disorder in adult life. Key research from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism was that people who started drinking before age 15 were 50% more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults. The same was true to a lesser extent for those who started drinking between ages 15 and 17.

Doing our best to prevent substance abuse in our youth population takes education and open conversations, and not just from parents to children these are topics that everyone needs to talk about.  Drug and alcohol use disorder is not a choice or a moral failure, it is a medical condition that can be avoided. Here are some conversation starters that can begin to help in avoiding and preventing substance abuse with your friends and family and help promote a healthier lifestyle free from addiction.

Here are five ways to prevent substance abuse:

1. Understand What Substance Abuse Is. Substance abuse begins with:

  • Using addictive drugs (illicit or prescribed) for recreational purposes
  • Seeking out intoxication every time you use alcohol or mind-altering substances.
  • Abusing prescription medication

2. Avoid Peer Pressure and temptation to fit in. Develop healthy friendships and relationships begins with maintaining healthy boundaries by avoiding friends or family members who pressure you to use substances. Young people become most like the people that they surround with, so by having healthy role models that are open and accessible in the community, the peer pressure that exists can be negated by having people to talk to. It also helps to have some practiced “No Thank You” statements at the ready as to why you won’t be attending the upcoming events or parties where it is known that drugs and or alcohol will be present.

3. Talk About Mental Health. Anxiety and depression are very prevalent in our society and being able to overcome the stigma associated with having a mental health diagnosis is important when accessing the needed treatment to get our lives back on track. Mental illness and substance abuse often go hand in hand. If you are dealing with a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder you should seek professional help from a licensed therapist or counselor. A professional will provide you with healthy coping skills to alleviate your symptoms without turning to drugs and alcohol. Self-medicating for a mental health issue can lead to exasperating the symptoms associated with a mental health issue which in turn leads to more substance use and experimentation.

4. Look For Risk Factors. Look at your family history of mental illness and addiction, several studies have shown that this disease tends to run in the family, but it can be prevented. The more you are aware of your biological, environmental and physical risk factors the more likely you are to overcome them. Some risk factors are having family members with a history of substance use, having family events that always include the use of alcohol or other mood-altering substances, having poor parental monitoring or poor communication, a lack of connectedness to school or community activities, having a learning disability or low academic achievement, having been physically or sexually abused while growing up or having had some traumatic experiences in childhood.

5. Keep a Well-Balanced Life. Young people often turn to drugs and alcohol when something in their life is missing or not working. Practicing stress management skills can help you overcome these life stressors and will help you live a balanced and healthy life. The best way to alleviate stress is by not waiting for stress to arrive and trying to battle it away but instead to structure your life with selfcare and evidence-based stress relief habits. Self-care habits like getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet as well as eating together with family and friends. Creating time for learning another language or practicing a musical instrument are both great ways to use your time and feel good about yourself while keeping stress at bay. Also, by practicing mindfulness breathing techniques and meditation regularly are scientifically proven to reduce stress.

Finally, it’s important to develop goals and dreams for your future. These will help you focus on what you want and help you realize that drugs and alcohol will simply get in the way and hinder you from achieving your goals, and always surround yourself with others that have goals and dreams for their life as well. It may not seem like it but life is short and time is our greatest resource and using drugs and alcohol to escape from life is a waste of that resource.

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