Rona M. Hebert Northern Arizona University
Prevention was first developed for public health. In the 1960s, the focus of prevention shifted to drug use. Prevention was used in conjunction with treatment modalities and law enforcement to control societal demand for drugs (Brotman and Suffet, 1975). In order for prevention to actually be preventive, we need to identify those who are at the most risk. We must then devise a plan to create healthy alternatives to drug use and/or behaviors leading to drug use.
Family Drug Education and group therapy are both primary prevention strategies. Family System Therapy is another form of primary prevention, but is considered to be much more effective than the other therapies at successful prevention. These types of strategy are mostly educational and didactic in nature. Unfortunately, education alone does not guarantee prevention. “Education of any kind will have little to no impact on a youngster who is already deeply involved with drugs” (Wald and Hutt, 1971).
These kids come from a home where drug abuse is not only acceptable, but is a normal, daily routine. It should be expected that these kids will not respond to drug education in the same manner as children that have never been exposed to drugs. According to the National Institute of Health, children of parents who abused drugs are 45 to 79 percent more likely to abuse drugs themselves than the general population” (NIH, n.d.).
It could be argued that these kids have inherited an addiction gene, making them highly susceptible to drug usage and abuse. Their environmental surroundings place them at a disadvantage in the goal of prevention. Education, especially didactic, “is not likely to be favorably impressed or to be changed by viewing…drug abuse films” (Wald and Hutt, 1971). These teenagers need an intervention in what is acceptable and normal behavior in regards to drug use.
Genetic, Psychological, and Socioeconomic Risks
Teenagers that have a mental illness are also at a disadvantage when battling drug abuse. Many of these kids, as well as adults, believe they can self-medicate with illegal drugs. This is most consistently found in those that suffer from a bipolar infliction. It is imperative to understand that education alone in these cases is unrealistic. These teens require psychological intervention and consistent monitoring to ensure compliance with therapy and prescribed medications.
Stereotypically, we have come to believe that non-whites are more likely to abuse drugs. By now, we know that stereotypes are unfounded. Actually, whites are at a higher risk to abuse drugs than African-Americans and Asian Americans. “The highest percentage in drug abuse was found in Native American males, 15 percent, according to a 2011 study” (ARCH, 2011). To dispel stereotypes even further, those with higher IQs are more likely to use drugs than those with lower intelligence.
Risk Signs and Goals of Prevention
It is impossible to look at a teen and know if he/she is using drugs, avoiding drugs, or if they are dealing with an experimental curiosity. Deciphering between signs of drug use and signs of adolescent puberty can be difficult. According to the NIH, teenagers may start behaving depressed, withdrawn, or hostile. Other signs may appear at school or with peers (NIH, n.d.). Recognizing the signs before a teenager becomes addicted is of utmost importance. The teenage brain is easily changed by drug use. If abuse is prevalent, immediate treatment is needed.
Strategies for Prevention
To prevent a teenager from falling to peer pressure and curiosity, have them set