This October marks the seventh annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month –– an observance to encourage prevention efforts among teens and young adults and to remember those who lost their lives to substance abuse.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 20.1 million Americans 12 or older had a substance use disorder in 2016. Because people are most likely to begin abusing drugs –– alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and illegal and prescription drugs –– during adolescence and young adulthood, parental supervision and involvement are especially crucial.
SAMHSA has found that prevention and early intervention strategies can significantly diminish the negative consequences of drug and/or alcohol consumption before they occur. In fact, each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18. Given that nearly half of US adults have a close friend or family member who is or has been addicted to drugs, investment in prevention strategies is a necessity.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective practices and approaches for substance abuse prevention.
Communication is the foundation of strong family relationships. It can help parents stay aware of what’s happening in their children’s lives, catch problems early on, and react in appropriate ways.
Having meaningful, ongoing conversations about drugs and alcohol with your son is incredibly important. Look for blocks of time to talk –– never rush these conversations –– and make sure to use open-ended, nonjudgmental questions and actively listen to his responses. You’ll want to get more than a simple “yes” or “no” response from your son as it allows for a better exchange of ideas. Ask him what he thinks would happen if he consumes drugs or alcohol and allow him to express his concerns, struggles, and hopes. This will give you insight into what’s important to him and show him that it’s not shameful to share his feelings.
Prescription Drug Monitoring
The United States is in the throes of the deadliest drug crisis in national history. Nearly 2 million Americans abuse or are dependent on opioids, and in 2017 more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses –– a twofold increase in only a decade. According to the CDC, opioid abuse costs the U.S. almost $56 billion each year in lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice costs. To help combat this epidemic and assist in the prevention of drug misuse, abuse, and mortality, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are used to monitor and analyze the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients. The goal of PDMPs is to help identify potential doctor shoppers and/or people who may be at risk of developing a substance use disorder or even overdose.
Because abused prescription drugs are often obtained from the medicine cabinets of family and friends, it’s essential to do your part to carefully and regularly monitor where drugs are kept in your home and use the right methods of disposal. National Prescription Take Back Day is a key prevention strategy for keeping drugs from finding their way into the wrong hands. Since the program began in the fall of 2010, the DEA has collected 474.5 Tons of unused or expired prescription medications. Need to dispose of drugs? The next Take Back Day is on October 27, 2018.
Education & Awareness
As a parent, educating yourself about addiction is an imperative first step of prevention. If you remain aware of the warning signs of alcohol and drug use, you have a better chance of getting your son the help he needs in a timely manner.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of addiction include but are not limited to:
- Declining academic performance
- Disinterest in sports, hobbies, or extracurricular activities he previously enjoyed
- Becoming defiant, uncooperative, or violent
- Isolation from friends or family
- Lack of respect for authority
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Frequent mood swings
Another large component of substance abuse prevention among adolescent males is maintaining a well-balanced emotional and physical lifestyle. When your son actively participates in extracurricular activities –– sports teams, music lessons, the school newspaper –– he is less likely to experiment with drugs because he won’t have as much free time on his hands. Furthermore, a network of coaches and teammates can provide support and camaraderie. Eating a healthy diet and practicing daily stress management techniques such as meditation can also help decrease the risk of use.
Seek Help When Needed
In the event that your son develops an alcohol and/or drug problem, hope is not lost. Your church community, family, and friends can provide support during this difficult time. Additionally, inpatient treatment facilities designed specifically for young adult men (like the core treatment program offered at Windward Way) can help your son find long-term recovery.
As individuals, it’s up to us to break the stigma of addiction and make a positive impact in our communities. Prevention is everyone’s business.