How Can You Prevent Substance Abuse? National Prevention Week 2018

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National Prevention Week is held every year in order to increase public awareness of and action around addiction and mental health. Hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Prevention Week focuses on community involvement, partner engagement and resource sharing to distribute their message. As this year’s National Prevention Week comes to a close, what can we all do to help prevent addiction and is it even possible to do so?

How Can You Help Prevent Substance Abuse And Addiction?

Raising awareness about addiction is one of the best ways that you can reduce the stigma and prevent others from falling into the cycle of substance abuse. In order to do so, here are some steps you can take:

Educate Yourself And Others

Addiction can be a scary disease, but understanding how it develops and how you can help those struggling puts the power back in your hands. Once you have a solid understanding of addiction, share your knowledge with your community. Teach them that substance abuse and addiction isn’t a choice, but a disease – and show them how they can help.

Additionally, when you educate people about substance abuse, it gives them the knowledge to make smarter and more informed decisions about their drug and alcohol consumption. Citizens that make intelligent decisions based on evidence-based research and facts can lower their risk of substance misuse.

Talk About It

For a long time, addiction has been a disease that’s hidden in the shadows because of the shame associated with it. Unfortunately, this way of thinking has only perpetuated the stigma of addiction.

Instead of hiding your struggle from loved ones, speak up. Having an honest conversation about addiction can be enlightening and inspiring for both of you. If you think that someone close to you is struggling with addiction, talk to them about it. While it may be difficult to start the conversation, don’t wait – it could save their life.

The more comfortable communities are talking about addiction, the more those struggling with it will feel confident that their request for help won’t be met with judgment.

Learn The Warning Signs Of Addiction And Who’s At Risk

Addiction is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Being able to identify the warning signs of addiction is critical to catching the disease in it’s beginning stages when it’s easier to treat. Early intervention and treatment can be essential to long-term recovery from addiction.

Part of early intervention is knowing who’s more at risk for developing an addiction than others. While addiction can happen to anyone, those with a family history of addiction, a pre-existing mental illness, past trauma or chronic pain are more at risk for developing an addiction. Although you can’t change the fact that you may have a family history of addiction, seeking treatment for the existing conditions that you can treat may alleviate some risk of substance abuse.

Watch Your Language

Using derogatory words like “junkie”, “addict”, or “alcoholic” will never prevent someone from experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Instead, these words preserve the stigma of addiction and all of the negative connotations the go along with this illness. These false generalizations can further shame a person and prevent them from getting help – and research agrees.

According to a study published by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2015, the language we use to describe addiction can perpetuate the stigma of addiction and keep people from getting the help they need. However, the language you use can also encourage someone to seek addiction treatment if it’s compassionate and kind.

Next time you hear someone use hurtful labels to refer to a person with an addiction, correct them. Making small changes every day will lead to big changes over time.

Encourage Community Involvement

Changing the whole world is an unimaginable task, so start with just your community. Teach them about addiction, show them how to help people seek treatment, encourage compassion towards those struggling, make a mental note of those that could use your assistance and be an advocate for better addiction treatment options in your area.

If you turn your community into a place of compassion and understanding for those struggling with a substance use disorder, it will encourage people to seek treatment instead of hiding in shame. A community that sees addiction as a disease and not a moral failing is on the right track for helping those currently struggling, supporting those in recovery and preventing future addictions.

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Can You Prevent An Addiction?

Educating communities and raising awareness for substance abuse are all positive steps towards helping people make smarter and more informed decisions about drug or alcohol use. Unfortunately, even if you take these steps to educate your family, friends, and community about the dangers of substance abuse, there is no definitive way that you can prevent someone else from developing an addiction.

Addiction can happen at any time to any person, and that’s part of what makes it such a scary disease. You can follow all the steps to help prevent addiction from happening to you or someone you love, but it can still happen. These discouraging and straightforward truths can leave you wondering: why do we even take measures to prevent addiction at all?

Communities work to raise awareness and educate others about substance abuse not only to help others make smarter choices but also so that people can recognize the early warning signs of addiction and intervene early when someone needs help. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSAH), early intervention and treatment are some of the best ways to help those who are on a path toward addiction regain balance in their life before spiraling out of control.

In this way, you may not be able to prevent everyone from forming an addiction, but you can still make a difference by helping those struggling get the help they need before it’s too late, hindering other at-risk individuals from experimenting with drugs or alcohol and reducing the stigma of addiction.

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