Steve Johnson is a guest blogger. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please feel free to contact me. Beth Watson, LCSW
They say that prevention is the best medicine, and that couldn’t be more true in the area of substance abuse and addiction. Many parents live with fear that their children will fall in with the wrong crowd in school and other social settings, giving in to peer pressure and experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
That’s why parents, schools, and communities should take an active role in engaging young people and adults alike in positive prevention efforts. Here’s a look at what the most effective prevention programs do. You’ll find that many of these focal areas are equally as important in prevention as they are in rehabilitation.
1. Acknowledge and Treat Potential Risk Factors
Certain groups of people are more at risk for substance abuse than others. Recognizing an at-risk individual and mitigating the trait or behavior that is putting them at risk is a mark of a good program. Risk factors can include mental illness, suicidal thoughts, history of trauma, or social rejection.
Treating these factors in addition to treating the addiction itself is also a key role of rehabilitation. These aspects are the root of the problem, while the addiction is the result, and long-term recovery involves treating the underlying issues as well as the disease.
2. Recognize and Meet Community Needs
A rehabilitation or prevention program in the inner city as opposed to a program in Beverly Hills is going to look very different. It is important that the program acknowledges the type of community it is in and uses that knowledge to its advantage.
Treating or educating a low-income teenage dropout should be approached differently than treating or educating a middle-aged mother, for instance. They are likely to have different stressors and triggers. Research insights into and attention to the unique needs of the community should be readily apparent in any effective substance abuse program.
For example, in low-income communities, children and teens may have few positive recreational opportunities and with parents working long hours and being left alone. Making after-school programming with access to mentors a viable prevention opportunity, combined with substance abuse education, would be the best solution. The same is true for teens recovering from addiction; mentorship and positive role models can make a tremendous difference in outcomes.
3. Offer Content and Delivery That Match the Demographic
Drug prevention in children versus teenagers should also have different approaches. A good program should understand and learn from its participants’ reactions to different methodologies. For example, a cartoon video may be an effective delivery method for a child but could be perceived as too juvenile for older teens; they may disregard the message as a result. A good prevention program knows how to get through to each target audience and should never have a one-size-fits-all ideology.
4. Utilize Familial Bonds
With at-risk groups, support from friends and family can make all the difference. A suitable prevention program will use that built-in support system and incorporate and strengthen family bonds. Parents and role models still hold the most influence on a youth’s choices regarding substance abuse. Even the best rehabilitation or prevention program may fail if there are bad examples at home that are not being addressed. Effective programs will educate both the individual and the family.
Furthermore, the program should also aid family members in confronting the at-risk individual. Many parents simply do not know how to approach the subject of addiction. With the importance of a parent’s role in a child’s life, good prevention programs will educate the parents on how to talk to their children and how to intervene when necessary.
5. Includes Interactive Sessions
Lecture-based programs have been proven to be less effective than programs that allow conversation and dialogue to occur between students and teachers. An engaged listener is a more eager learner who retains far more information than a passive listener who has no interaction with the speaker. Particularly with children, having a speaker come in and list off facts about drugs and addiction has little impact. Children who receive an active conversation in which they can ask questions and receive honest answers are more likely to remember what they have been told.
Effective drug prevention programs are the first step in safeguarding an at-risk individual. While numerous prevention programs exist, only some truly work to stop patterns of addiction. Doing the research and finding a suitable program is the best way to ensure that you or a loved one does not have to recover from addiction later in life.
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.
Image via Pixabay by 422737