October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in October is a critical awareness event to share the essential steps towards preventing substance abuse, as well as paying respect to those who have lost their lives due to substance abuse.

We also extend respect to families and communities that have lost loved ones to overdose.

Substance abuse in the U.S. is prevalent in young adults. Over the past decade the number of heroin users aged 18 to 25 has doubled.

Alcohol use disorder now affects 3.4 million young adults, which amounts to 10% of young adults and illicit drug use disorder affects 7.3% of the population.

Related: 3 Things You Should Know About Alcohol [And 5 You Probably Don’t]

8 Ways to Help Prevent Substance Abuse

Prevention is the best course of action with substance abuse, however to be successful, we must fully understand the root cause of the disorder.

Deterring people from getting into the drug use trap will help these individuals live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. It will also improve the nation’s workforce, the economy, health outcomes and the entire country as a whole.

Here are 8 ways to prevent substance abuse from ever beginning:

  1. Use alcohol in moderation
  2. Learn coping skills for dealing with stress at school or work
  3. Get help for mental health issues or trauma at the first sign of a problem
  4. Talk openly with kids about drugs
  5. Discard of any unused or unneeded medications in the home
  6. Avoid prescription painkillers whenever possible and choose over-the-counter pain
  7. relief such as ibuprofen or Tylenol instead
  8. Don’t succumb to peer pressure from friends
  9. Never use drugs or alcohol when pregnant

Substance use disorder can begin during prenatal development due to adverse circumstances, such as alcohol or substance use by the pregnant mother.

Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse

During National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, it’s important to explore holistic ways to prevent substance misuse, dependence, and addiction.

Early Childhood Substance Abuse Prevention

A vast body of evidence outlines that substance abuse is often due to adverse early life influences.

Early life interventions have the ability alter the trajectory of lives. It’s important for infants, toddlers, and children to meet their developmental milestones in all areas – physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Ensuring that a healthy progression is made from conception to adolescence can affect the risk for mental or behavioral problems and substance abuse later in life.

A disruption in the healthy development of a child can significantly impact their ability to live a full and healthy life – especially in the critical transitions between life events.

The developmental stages of a child can be divided into five areas as follows:

  • Prenatal (conception and birth)
  • Infancy and Toddler (birth to 3 years)
  • Preschool (ages 3 through 5 years)
  • Transition to School (ages 6 through 13 years)
  • Adolescence (ages 13 to 18)

A smooth transition between these vulnerable periods, specifically when moving from one phase of life to the next contributes to physical, psychological, emotional, and cognitive development.

Intervention during these vulnerable periods of transition is critical, especially when there are adverse circumstances playing out in the child’s life.

How Can Substance Abuse Develop?

The development of substance use disorders can sometimes occur due to genetics. Learning new coping methods and skills can change the future fate of the genetically affected child. Genetic and environmental factors often shape the development of a child.

However, even a child that is genetically susceptible doesn’t need to go on to suffer as environmental factors also play a role, both positively and negatively.

Alcohol and substance use by the mother during pregnancy can alter the developing fetus and result in a wide range of developmental delays as well as cognitive and behavioral problems. In severe cases Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) can result.

How Can Substance Abuse Develop?

There are 6 factors that can impact the development of substance abuse disorders. These factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Parenting
  • Environment
  • Nutrition
  • Siblings
  • Trauma

Adverse life experiences cannot always be avoided. It is normal for people to have at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). If this traumatic event is suitably managed, then one ACE should not impact cognitive development and lead to addiction. Sadly people often endure a cascade of ACEs.

These mounting traumatic experiences increase the likelihood of mental illness and addiction later on in life.

Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

One study found that a third of chronically mentally ill patients had a dual diagnosis of a substance use disorder and mental illness.

Dual diagnosis of substance addiction and mental illness exacerbate the symptoms of the disease. Also known as “co-occurring disorders,” it can sometimes be difficult to know if the addiction or mental health issue came first, but they often are interconnected.

Many times though, people with some form of mental health condition such as anxiety disorders or depression turn to drugs or alcohol as a means for self-medicating or coping with their condition. Others will have an addiction that spirals out of control and cause them to be depressed or endure extreme bouts of anxiety.

Whatever the case, dual diagnosis treatment is usually necessary to overcome addiction and mental health disorders and return to a life in recovery free from substance use.

Due to the complex and individual nature of each type of dual diagnosis, treatment programs should be tailored to fit the unique needs of each individual.

Dual diagnosis treatment can be grouped into common categories such as the following:

Everyone should stand by National Substance Abuse Prevention Month to raise awareness of this increasingly prevalent disorder in our society.

It is the hope that awareness campaigns will educate more people about substance misuse and addiction around the world. It’s possible to decrease the number of people afflicted by the disease of addiction, and preventing it before it ever happens is one of the most effective ways to do so.

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We believe trust, meaningful connections, and kindness are the essentials to beginning a journey in recovery. We are dedicated to providing an honest, authentic, and genuine treatment environment that gives our clients a unique opportunity for healing.

Alo House is LegitScript Certified and a Joint Commission Accredited Addiction Treatment Center.