There’s an old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is, it’s much easier to put in work to stop something bad from happening than it is to undo the damage after an illness has occurred.
This is certainly true with addiction. While can empower people with substance use disorders to get into recovery and lead a fulfilled life without drugs or alcohol, it is better to prevent substance abuse in the first place. People who never abuse drugs or alcohol are spared the physical and mental health consequences of addiction. This disease can undermine relationships between friends, family members and professionals, derailing a person’s career and social supports. Preventing substance abuse is the best way to avoid this hurt, especially when today’s powerful drugs can make even first time use fatal.
month. This month-long observance encourages communities around the country to partake in evidence-based preventative measures to keep people from misusing drugs and alcohol. This year’s theme is the “Power of Investing in Prevention.” Preventing substance abuse can save lives, and it also makes good financial sense: each dollar spent on prevention can $18 in future costs related to substance use disorders.
Ultimately, preventing substance abuse is a community effort. Organizations in the recovery industry like , people in recovery, healthcare professionals and family members can all play an important roll in keeping people from abusing drugs and alcohol. Here’s how to help prevent substance abuse:
People in Recovery
People who are living in recovery have been through the trials of addiction and survived. Sharing stories of addiction—and ultimately recovery—can help people identify with individuals struggling with substance abuse. For those who have never abused drugs or alcohol it’s easy to believe that addiction “could never happen to me.” However, talking to people in recovery and realizing that addiction can affect anyone—even people who look like you, your parents, your coworkers, etc—helps drive home the idea that addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. Having a real-life example of this just might help someone say no when they are offered drugs or alcohol, or seek help earlier if they realize that their use is becoming problematic.
Healthcare professionals are able to help prevent addiction by providing their patients and clients with the facts about substance use, and how particular substances affect the body. For example, as the nation becomes more aware of the opioid crisis, healthcare providers can talk to people about avoiding unnecessary opioids and properly disposing of unused pills. Citing information from is a good way to make patients aware of how prevalent substance abuse is, and how difficult is can be to access treatment once your are addicted. In fact, the latest report found that 95 percent of people with substance use disorder reported not being able to get the treatment they need. This information isn’t a scare tactic, but merely the reality of substance abuse.
Parents and Educators
Many people with substance use disorder began using illicit drugs and legal substances like tobacco and alcohol as teenagers or even preteens. Because of this pattern, it’s important to begin talking to children and teens at a young age about the dangers of substance abuse, before they start using.
Children who are comfortable talking openly with their parents about drugs and alcohol are less likely to abuse substances. However, the onus is on parents to have these conversations early and often. Organizations like the Partnership for Drug Free kids provide for talking to children about drugs and alcohol in a way that will encourage them to listen. Children who have parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to become addicted themselves, and for those individuals educators and teachers can be important for establishing healthy habits and preventing abuse.
Substance use disorder is a disease that thrives on shame and secrecy. For decades, families and communities pretended that substance abuse didn’t exist or that addiction was a moral failing. Now, however, we know that the best way to prevent substance abuse is for communities to talk openly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This month, harness the power of prevention by doing your part to prevent substance abuse.