Substance Abuse and Prevention for Adolescents
Written by CCC intern and Psychology student: Eve Castro
Co-written and edited by: Tyler N. Tolson
When we abuse substances, such as alcohol or drugs, it is not just excessive use that makes it abuse; It is when we prioritize using substances over other important things in our life that it becomes abuse. Though this sounds like a simple thing to detect, in reality it typically isn't depending on your age and relationship to other people socially. The issue with this seemingly gray area is that substance abuse is a very slippery slope, and it is extremely easy to go from recreational use of substances every once in awhile to abusing these same substances and making a habit of consistently using them when it is inconvenient or disruptive to one's life and emotional stability. Substance abuse can trigger many negative feelings and behaviors that otherwise might not be exhibited in healthy individuals. Some of these behaviors include aggression, withdrawal, truancy and theft. In many cases, one thinks they have control over the substance, but it is much more likely that the substance has control over themselves, and once realized it can be too late. It is also just as difficult to restructure your habits in order to quit. The key and (overall hope) for our society is prevention that incorporates scientific research and social/cultural understanding. Being educated with these two factors about substance abuse at a younger age can at least deter adolescents in particular from partaking in drugs that are the most toxic and destructive to them. As counselors, we can influence and help adjust certain behaviors in tweens and teens that can manage the coping tools that often otherwise lead to unhealthy habits.
According to a study conducted and published on Wiley Online Library, European regions had the highest prevalence of heavy alcohol use and daily tobacco use. We are able to gain an understanding of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use and their associated mortality and burden of disease. This addiction looks differently depending on where you are in the world, which means that prevention strategies will also look differently, as well.
Social Skills Training
So how do we know what prevention strategies work best depending on where you are in the world? Firstly, there are different social skills that people develop as a result of being in different cultures. A study conducted in 1983 evaluated the capability of social skills training for preventing substance abuse in adolescents. Based primarily on social learning theory (a theory of learning process and social behavior which proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others), the results of this study showed that by utilizing social skills training in adolescents, substance abuse and related behaviors significantly decreased.
What should I do if I am concerned about myself or a loved one having or developing a substance abuse problem?
It is important to find a mental health professional that is experienced with the recovery process from various cultural and social perspectives when taking on the difficult process of battling substance abuse. If you are on the fence about seeking out professional help, or if you've had unsuccessful attempts at managing your own/helping someone else use more healthy coping tools, try to attend an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous group near you. If you have limited ability to access one based on language differences, be sure to contact Compassionate Care Counseling for more information, or keep a lookout for our Public Resource list in 2020.