Education key to preventing drug, alcohol addiction

In a society that promotes alcohol and drug use continually at every level, the need to provide education on the dangers of alcohol and drug use and its effect on youth has never been greater. Children and youth are much more likely to avoid such dangers when they are properly educated. The NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) believes education on this critical threat needs to begin as early as possible in people’s lives.

Prevention is defined as the action of stopping something from happening or arising. Prevention is best when there is early intervention. If the progress of alcoholism and drug abuse can be stopped early in its course, then great individual suffering and family disruption can be avoided.

Prevention programs are important for children and youth of all ages because they strengthen protective factors among youth. Prevention strategies address the most at risk with accurate information about alcohol and drugs, articulate the potential consequences from their abuse, and offer activities and opportunities unrelated to drinking or drug use that may open new doors for youth who are still growing, learning, and expanding their horizons.

According to the NCADD there are four areas, specific to young people, which have proven to be effective in prevention and intervention of underage drinking:

1. Changing cultural misconceptions and behaviors about alcohol use through education.

Young people draw conclusions about alcohol-related social norms from what they see and hear about alcohol in their families and communities. These norms strongly influence their own attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol. When communities consistently prevent underage access to alcohol, publicize and enforce alcohol-related laws, and limit the promotion of alcohol, they reinforce the message that alcohol use by young people is unacceptable.

2. Curtailing the availability of alcohol to young people under age 21.

The most documented principle in alcohol use prevention is: Make it harder for young people to get alcohol, and they will drink less. Communities can make alcohol less available by promoting responsible adult behavior and holding adults accountable when they provide alcohol to minors; by raising the price of beer, wine, and liquor; or by reducing the number of places where alcohol is sold and served.

3. Consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations regarding alcohol purchase.

Communities can better enforce policies designed to stop drinking among children and adolescents. Studies find existing laws and regulations of underage drinking are often not enforced. When these laws are ignored, it not only enables young people to drink, but also communicates a general indifference to underage drinking.

4. Expanded access to treatment and recovery support services for adolescents and their families.

For adolescents, treatments that facilitate positive parental involvement, integrate other systems in which the adolescent participates (such as school and athletics), and recognize the importance of prosocial personal relationships are among the most effective. Access to comprehensive assessment, treatment, case management, and family-support services that are developmentally, culturally, and gender-appropriate is also integral when addressing adolescent addiction.

EVE, Incorporated offers free community-based prevention programs. School-based drug and alcohol, bullying, and violence prevention programs are examples of community-based prevention programs and are delivered by certified prevention professionals. These programs are evidence-based and often aim to increase the awareness, knowledge and skills of individuals to help them engage in healthy behaviors and/or promote healthy social norms about health issues. EVE prevention specialists are currently providing services to four of the six school districts in Washington County. However, there is always a need for more prevention resources in Washington County. The more youth that have access to prevention services the greater the outcome for those youth. As a community we can get involved and play an active role in supporting prevention services for our area youth. The role of the community, family and individual are key in education. Education is the key to prevention.

Jessica Dearth is a prevention specialist with Eve, Inc. in Marietta, OH. Behavioral Health Matters appears on the Opinion Page on the last Saturday of the month.