While addiction treatment programs can and do work, reducing drug or alcohol use before addiction takes hold is always a preferable course of action – and best of all are prevention interventions that convince people to avoid excessive use before it becomes a problem in the first place.
- Prevention is important. Prevention starts in the home and parents play an enormous role in keeping teen children free from drug and alcohol abuse.
- Prevention is best done consciously and it requires an investment in the lives of those you care about.
- There are no guarantees, and some people, even those raised by loving and attentive parents will experiment with drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, prevention programs such as brief interventions and social norms programs can help those that are drinking or using heavily reduce their consumption. These prevention programs are easy and cheap to administer.
Who Is at Greatest Risk of Addiction?
Although no one is immune to addiction, some people are at an increased risk of succumbing to this brain disease. That being said, no one, no matter how ‘at risk’ will develop addiction or alcoholism without first experimenting with drugs or alcohol – those that choose abstinence from alcohol and drugs are at no risk of substance abuse or dependence.
People who may be at an increased risk of addiction include:
- People with a close genetic relative who has had an addiction to alcohol or drugs
- People who start using drugs or alcohol at a young age 1
- People with friends that use drugs or alcohol
- People who do poorly in school 2
- People who require more alcohol to feel intoxicated
- People with mental illness
- People living in an environment with easy access to drugs or alcohol, acceptance of use or modeling of use
- People who use very addictive drugs, like opiate pain medications, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine
- Those growing up in a very permissive or neglectful family
Because research shows that the earlier teens start experimenting with drugs and alcohol the greater the chanced of substance abuse problems, one of the most effective prevention strategies for parents is to delay for as long as possible the age of initiation of use.
People who wait until the age of 21 to start drinking alcohol have extremely low odds of ever becoming an alcohol abuser or alcoholic. Teens that start drinking before the age of 13 have a whopping 43% chance of becoming an alcoholic – while those who delay their first drinks until the age of 21 have a less than 10% chance! 3
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