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Drug abuse is one of our society’s most concerning and difficult issues. People can start abusing drugs in many different ways, from overusing prescriptions to buying their drug of choice from online pharmacies or even dealers on the street.

Drug abuse and addiction are always serious issues, even when the person abusing drugs seems to have their life together. Remember, even a functional or high-achieving addict is still dealing with substance use disorder, and drug use will still have serious consequences for their long-term health and well-being.

Fortunately, while drug abuse can be difficult to deal with and even more difficult to overcome, there are some ways of preventing drug abuse, both in the moment and long term.

Let’s talk about preventing drug abuse that you can use at home, either for yourself or to offer support to your loved ones and make it less likely they’ll abuse drugs.

Remember, we aren’t talking about any substance in particular. Most drugs can be abused, and we might not even think of something, like alcohol or nicotine, as drugs, even though they are.

It’s also important to consider the legal implications of drug use. For instance, cannabis is legal in some places and is even safer than most recreational drugs, but it can still have negative consequences when someone starts using cannabis too much or too often.

So, rather than concentrating on strategies to detect and deal with specific drug use, we’re going to talk about prevention techniques and strategies that work no matter what drug is abused.

What Are Some Ways You Can Prevent Drug Abuse?

Before we get into the ways of preventing drug abuse, it’s important to address one thing upfront.

The only person whose drug use you can 100% control is yourself.

You can’t control your children, parents, friends, extended family, or other loved ones. Some of those people might choose to abuse drugs and resist attempts to help or give them additional support and treatment options.

While it’s painful when that happens, it’s important to remember that you can’t force them to overcome addiction. People need to make that decision on their own.

However, you can provide support and use harm prevention techniques to reduce the chances of someone abusing drugs and help keep them safer.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about ways of preventing drug abuse that works.

Understand How Drug Abuse Happens

This might not seem like a powerful tool, but it is. Understanding addiction and how addictions often start can be a good way to avoid addiction yourself and to provide resources to the people around you.

It’s important to know that peer pressure, mental illnesses, and risk factors like a personal or family history of substance abuse can all put someone at greater risk of trying and getting addicted to drugs.

Building networks of friends, peers, and people who can help support you through hard times, along with developing stress management skills, can all help make you less vulnerable to addiction.

Most people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol already have something going wrong or not working in their lives when the addiction starts. By intervening in stressors early and building coping mechanisms that don’t rely on substances, you’re much less likely to abuse drugs.

Talk Realistically About Drug Use and Its Consequences – Especially With Teens

It’s important to talk about drugs and be honest about the risks with anyone who seems vulnerable or who has started experimenting with substances, but it’s particularly important with teens.

Remember, teenagers are more vulnerable to peer pressure, are likely dealing with problems they aren’t talking about or willing to share, and don’t have fully developed frontal cortexes to understand the risks of their decisions the way an adult would.

Remember, programs like DARE didn’t work partly because they weren’t realistic and didn’t focus on fact-based risk analysis or explaining why it was important to refuse drugs. Those programs modeled saying no but didn’t give kids and teens rational reasons not to. Instead, they tried to create fear and stigma around drug abuse, and programs focused more on punishment than personal consequences or rehabilitation.

We can learn from those failures by being more honest about drugs and drug abuse, answering questions factually, researching when we don’t know the answers, and explaining risks in rational, factual, and personal ways instead of trying to create fear or disgust.

Encourage & Model Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Like conversations about drugs, this tip is often given to parents to prevent drug abuse in teens, but this can be a useful way of preventing drug abuse at any age and in any peer group.

Stress isn’t something we talk about very much in our culture, especially not in the context of holding ourselves and others accountable for dealing with stress in healthy ways. But, having those conversations and following through and modeling healthy coping mechanisms can be an effective way to avoid the temptation to use drugs and to help other people see that there are alternatives that can help them cope without needing to use drugs.

Not sure how to deal with stress or what coping mechanisms can help? Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Here are some common coping mechanisms and healthy habits that can reduce your risk of abusing drugs or developing an addiction:

  • Lifestyle habits – Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and eat a healthy diet for your unique body.
  • Get some exercise every day if you can, even if it’s just a walk around your block or a short dance in your room.
  • Give yourself alone time. It’s easy to spend most of our time chatting with or being with other people, especially with smartphones and social media. Instead, try to give yourself a little time every day.
  • Take social media breaks. Social media can increase peer pressure, encourage unhealthy self-image, and lower self-esteem. Taking breaks, even if it’s only for a few hours or a day or two, can help you reset.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Humans are social creatures. We need interaction and support to thrive, and it’s okay to ask for a little help when you need it. It’s good for you and the people who care about you!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help! Sometimes stress in life gets too much, or you struggle to deal with emotions and situations in life, or you feel like you’ve hit a wall and need some help brainstorming your way through it. Therapists and support groups are available for almost every problem under the sun, and it’s okay to decide you need professional support from time to time or even to incorporate therapy into a long-term support and self-care plan.
  • Remember Self Care. Sometimes self-care looks like indulging in a bath bomb or a favorite dessert, but more often, it means making yourself eat better, staying hydrated, or washing your dishes, so they don’t keep bothering you in the sink. All these types of self-care are valid, but you should consider what you’re doing to take care of yourself and ensure at least one thing every day.

Always Use Medications As Prescribed, And Ask A Pharmacist If You’re Unsure

One of many causes of the opioid crisis in the United States was prescriptions that were given a little too freely, but another cause was people misusing prescriptions and developing otherwise avoidable dependence and later addiction.

In 2019, 10.1 million people misused prescription medication in the United States.

When people think about drug abuse and misuse, they often think that misuse is more extreme than it is. Remember, misuse can be as simple as taking a pain medication a little earlier than you should or taking a little more than you’re prescribed because you’re still in pain.

These behaviors can be dangerous and increase the risk of developing an addiction.

If you aren’t sure how to safely use your medication, or if your medication isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, call or make an appointment with your prescribing doctor to discuss your options.

If you aren’t sure how to take your prescription or whether your new medication is safe to use with an older prescription, talk to your pharmacist for more information.

Combining healthy coping mechanisms with open and honest conversations about drug use, carefully managing prescriptions, and educating yourself about the risks of your medications gives you a powerful arsenal of ways to prevent drug abuse in yourself and others.

But, if that’s not enough, or you’re already dealing with an addiction, it may be more helpful to talk about seeking help.

Benefits Of Seeking Help Immediately & Preventing Long-Term Drug Abuse: How Long-Term Drug Abuse Affects Your Brain & Body

Speaking of talking openly and honestly about drugs and drug use, let’s talk.

If you’re dealing with an addiction, there is no better time to get help than now. The sooner you get help with your addiction and stop abusing drugs, the sooner your body can recover, and the easier it will be to learn new coping mechanisms and re-train your brain and body to function without drugs.

The longer you continue using drugs, the harder it will be to stop, and the more severe withdrawal symptoms are likely to become.

But, beyond the difficulty, long-term drug use can also have serious consequences for your brain and body.

We can’t go into all the risks, there are just too many, and the risks are a little different for every drug.

But, speaking generally, drug use can affect the normal function of your brain by altering the balance of neurotransmitters your brain produces. Interacting with neurotransmitters or neurotransmitter systems is one of the main ways drugs can make you feel high.

Over time, those drugs can change the normal function of important structures in your brain, like the Basal Ganglia, which is involved in motivation, the Extended Amygdala, which controls stress and protective emotions like anxiety and unease; and the Prefrontal Cortex, which is critical in decision making and solving complex problems.

In rodent studies, drugs like MDMA have also been shown to lower serotonin levels in the brain for years after using the drug, and similar studies in humans have shown that MDMA use, and similar drugs, can increase your risk for developing mental illnesses that may be linked to low levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Using inhaled drugs can also cause lung and respiratory damage, while injecting drugs puts you at greater risk of diseases like HIV.

Realistically, not everyone who abuses drugs will have long-term negative consequences like the ones we’re talking about here. Some people get lucky, and some don’t use drugs long enough to deal with the worst side effects.

But many people who abuse drugs will have to deal with this kind of long-term consequence. So it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re thinking about drug use, especially if you’re considering seeking treatment.

Getting The Support You Need To Help Prevent Drug Abuse

If you’re looking for support to overcome drug abuse and addiction or to help other people struggling with drug abuse, you can talk to your doctor or reach out to the local community to see what options are available.

Treatment centers are often the best option for overcoming addiction because they offer comprehensive support, skills building after withdrawal and detox, and a controlled environment that allows patients to concentrate on themselves and heal.

Of course, treatment centers aren’t the only option. Individual therapy, working with friends and family to overcome addiction, and reaching out to support groups can also help.

But, if you’re committed to overcoming addiction or helping a loved one ready to admit they need treatment, Ascendant NY can help.

Contact us for questions about our programs, referral, or intake process. We’ll be happy to help you get started, discuss different treatment options, and help you prepare for a successful treatment.

Drug abuse is serious, but it doesn’t have to end your story. Instead, you deserve help and support to overcome your addiction and learn how to live as you want.

 

Sources:

Ascendant NY has sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our Editorial Policy.

  1. Prairie View A&M University. Tips for Preventing Substance Abuse. Student Affairs. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://www.pvamu.edu/sa/drug-and-alcohol-abuse-prevention-program-daapp/tips-for-preventing-substance-abuse/
  2. Campellone J, Turley RK. Understanding the Teen Brain – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051
  3. Lopez G. Why anti-drug campaigns like DARE fail. Vox. Published September 1, 2014. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://www.vox.com/2014/9/1/5998571/why-anti-drug-campaigns-like-dare-fail
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs and the Brain. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published July 2020. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are MDMA’s effects on the brain? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published September 2017. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-are-mdmas-effects-on-brain
  6. 6. Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs (ASPA). What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic? HHS.gov. Published October 27, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2022. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Epiphany Wellness, The Heights Treatment, Infinite Recovery, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed August 26, 2022