Substance Abuse: Prevention and Awareness

Written by Michele Wheat

Substance abuse can change a person's life and create a helpless feeling in those who care about that person. In many cases, substance abuse can start out slowly and go unnoticed until it is creating significant problems. When we talk about substance abuse, we are talking about more than just drugs. The list can include alcohol, food, and any one of a number of other addictive substances and activities. But drug addiction is the one that can do the most damage, create the most chaos, and ruin the most lives. Parents, family members, friends, and teachers of a teen or anyone else suffering from drug abuse need to be able to identify the warning signs and know what actions to take when they see someone they care about in the grips of an addiction.

Common Addictive Drugs

The first step toward preventing addiction is an awareness about what drugs are available to teens and others in the community. It can seem like a new addictive substance is introduced every year and teens are always finding other dangerous ways to get high. But the core problems with addiction still stem from the drugs that are more commonly known to everyone. Drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana have been around for years, and their effects have been felt by families all over the country. Prescription drug abuse has also been going on for a long time, and that includes a wide range of opiate-based drugs that are designed to help people with various health conditions. Newer drugs such as meth and ecstasy are pushing their way to the forefront and creating problems for families from all walks of life.

Facts About Drugs

One way to enhance awareness about these dangerous substances is to discuss the various ways that they affect the person who takes them. For instance, methamphetamine (meth) alters the way your brain uses a chemical called dopamine, and it can make you more energetic and irritable. Heroin speeds up the heart rate to a dangerous level and can have a devastating effect on the nervous system. Heroin also has a strong withdrawal effect that makes the user crave the drug constantly. Abusing opioid pain medication can result in chronic constipation, nausea, difficulty breathing, and potentially death. By understanding the effects of these drugs, people can spot a loved one who is becoming addicted and get them the help they need.

Prevention Techniques

Sometimes it can be difficult for a teen to walk away from the temptation of drugs. If the crowd they are hanging out with does drugs, then the peer pressure to do the same can be intense. Parents can do their part by creating a loving home atmosphere that enhances the ability for children to ask for help when they need it. Teens should consider finding activities they enjoy that do not involve hanging out with a drug-abusing crowd. For example, being part of a sports team or a club at school can keep teens busy and away from temptations. One of the most effective ways that parents can stop their teens from getting involved in drugs is to have open conversations about the topic in a way that doesn't make their teens uncomfortable. By offering supportive advice instead of creating a confrontation, parents can get their kids to consider the problems that drugs create and inspire their kids to walk down a different path.

Helping An Addict

When a teen becomes an addict, the results can be devastating. A teen has their whole life ahead of them, and they can seem like they are throwing it away on drugs. If you or someone you know is addicted to some sort of drug, then you can start the healing by reaching out to that person and offering yourself as a candid person to talk to. In many cases, drug addiction is the result of some other problem or issue the addict is dealing with. If you can help with the issue, then you may be able to stop the addiction. For more extreme cases, it is important to get the addict's family involved. Some addicts will agree to get help, while others many need the assistance of a professional intervention. No matter how the addict gets help, it is important to get them into a program of some kind as soon as possible to stop the destructive effects of drug addiction.