Hollywood glamorizes indulgence in alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs among teenagers, with every teen drama on silver screens featuring rager scenes. However, teenagers are more vulnerable to alcohol and substance abuse than they realize. Their brains are underdeveloped, and the psychoactive properties of drugs and alcohol can alter brain function in the long term.
Fortunately, parents, educators, guardians, and society at large can take steps to prevent teenagers from indulging in alcohol and drug abuse. October is youth substance use prevention month, so keep reading this guide for tips on how to support the teenagers in your life and help them avoid falling victim to the allure of alcohol and drug abuse.
Why Do Teenagers Engage in Alcohol and Substance Abuse?
Before delving into the preventive measures against alcohol and drug abuse, begin by understanding the potential risk factors for drug abuse. So, what draws teenagers to alcohol and illicit substance consumption?
Teenagers may consider taking alcohol and other illicit drugs purely out of curiosity to see how the substances will make them feel. The rational part of the teenage brain is underdeveloped, explaining why most teenagers engage in risky behavior without fear of consequence.
Unfortunately, what starts as casual drinks may morph into alcohol poisoning or worse. Although any teenager can act on their curiosity, the risk of experimenting with alcohol and drugs is higher among teens exposed to such substances from an early age.
2. Peer Pressure
Teenagers may indulge in alcohol and drug usage to fit in with their peers. Peer pressure is higher among teenagers because of the underdeveloped brain and the need to gain social acceptance.
Unfortunately, the need to fit in may put a teenager on the challenging road to drug recovery. It takes a tremendous amount of work to earn recovery coins, which are the official drug recovery symbol.
3. Identity Crisis
Children rely on community and family norms to tell them who they are and how they should behave. However, they begin exploring themselves as teenagers and may question all the norms they identified with before their formative years, leading to an identity crisis.
As the inscription on the coins and medallions in a narcotics anonymous store says, “To thine own self be true.” The medallions and other merchandise are the sobriety symbols for drugs and alcohol recovery, encouraging recovery patients to accept themselves, speak their truth to others, and take accountability for their behavior.
But being true to yourself is challenging when you do not know who you are. Consequently, teenagers may seek self-identity in drug and alcohol use sub-cultures. The behavior may explain why drug addicts anonymous programs encourage introspection, honesty, and self-acceptance for sustained behavioral change.
How To Prevent Teens Engagement Of Alcohol Abuse
Although numerous factors can push teenagers into substance abuse, proactivity on the part of stakeholders can help curb such incidences. Moreover, it may help ease drug recovery without forced addiction treatments.
The reason why forced addiction treatment fails is because the patient could be unwilling to change. Also, the potential for human rights abuse in compulsory treatment settings may cause drug recidivism. Therefore, stakeholders should consider the tips below to prevent indulgence from the onset and institute non-compulsory treatment strategies where compulsory treatment or forced addiction fails to manage the problem.
1. Institute School-Based Interventions
American teenagers spend almost six hours in class daily and have four hours of unstructured time. Also, most risk factors for alcohol and drug misuse, including peer pressure, bullying, and performance pressure, occur in the school setting. Therefore, instituting preventative measures at the school level goes a long way in curbing drug and alcohol abuse indulgence among teenagers.
Additionally, the degree of bonding with a conventional institution like a school influences the potential for alcohol and drug abuse indulgence. Teenage students who struggle to establish meaningful relationships with teachers and participate in class and co-curricular activities are at a higher risk of developing drug-related habits.
Educators can develop model school-based programs emphasizing social resistance skills, normative education, and competence enhancement. Instituting such training programs within and outside the family helps teenagers develop positive coping mechanisms and avoid indulgence in alcohol and drug abuse.
2. Family-based Programs
Besides the school environment, teenagers spend much time at home within the family setup. Therefore, family-targeted preventive interventions are crucial in curbing alcohol and substance abuse among teenagers.
Such interventions primarily focus on family bonding/ function and parenting skills. Family bonding encourages parents and their teenage children to communicate effectively and co-write family rules regarding drug use as a family bonding strategy.
On the other hand, family-based interventions empower parents with parenting skills, including nurturing teenagers. Parents may receive resources like pamphlets from facilitators on nurturing socially engaged children, curbing antisocial behavior, and addressing potential signs of alcohol and drug use immediately after they appear.
3. Peer-to-peer Strategies
Teenagers communicate better among themselves than they do with parents, educators, and other authoritative figures because generational and power differences do not exist. Therefore, they speak the same language and have more empathy for challenges that authoritative figures may not understand.
Peer-to-peer drug and alcohol abuse prevention strategies allow teenagers to develop viable solutions to their problems. Moreover, the acronym for recovery list features a handful of acronyms, including HEART (healing, enjoying, and recovering together), SPONSOR (sober person offering newcomers suggestions on sobriety), and YANA (you are not alone), encourage peer-to-peer support for healing.
Therefore, community stakeholders like educators, religious leaders, business owners, and other role models should create and use experts to moderate peer-to-peer teenage drug and alcohol use prevention programs.
4. Monitor Progress
The alcohol and drug-related challenges facing different communities vary. For example, the stereotypical at-risk communities may have a challenge with illicit drugs, while high-performing teenagers are likely more susceptible to abusing prescription drugs.
Therefore, stakeholders must monitor the strategies employed to establish whether they address the prevailing challenges and emerging risks. The monitoring progress may include incentivizing recovery patients through recovery gifts that help them stick to their resolve.
Teenage drug and alcohol use prevention strategies are crucial in preventing long-term drug dependency problems and easing the burden of substance abuse in society. The tips above help address the challenge at the universal, at-risk group, and at-risk individual levels. Therefore, follow the tips above and share your experience with interested parties to grow perspectives.