October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a month to highlight and bolster the vital work of substance abuse prevention. Substance abuse takes a devastating toll on the American population each year, making prevention an essential part of public health. One of the most important prevention measures individuals can take is understanding how substance abuse develops, watching for the signs of substance abuse, and, if necessary, turning to a substance abuse treatment program for help.
The Foundations of Substance Abuse Prevention Month
There is no simple solution to substance abuse. The toll that the disease of addiction takes on individuals, families, and communities is huge making substance abuse prevention an important component in battling the disease. Early prevention can be an important key to combatting addiction. For that reason, in 2011, October was declared National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
The foundation of substance abuse prevention is education. For this reason, it is essential to understand the risk factors and warning signs for substance abuse, as well as ways to avoid substance abuse.
Risk Factors for Substance Abuse
Understanding and education is the first step to preventing substance abuse. Though anyone can struggle with substance abuse, there are common risk factors that place certain people at higher risks. These can include:
- Having friends or family who abuse drugs or alcohol
- Having a dysfunctional home environment
- Traumatic childhood experiences
- Experiencing violence or trauma as an adult
- Mental illness
- Using drugs or alcohol at an early age
People who have been exposed to these risk factors may be more likely to use drugs recreationally, seek out intoxication when they use drugs and alcohol, or to develop a substance use disorder. Nipping these factors in the bud can be a critical preventative measure.
Avoiding Substance Abuse
Though education is an essential first step, prevention also requires action on the part of the individual. One way to avoid substance abuse is by surrounding yourself with friends and family who will respect and support your decision not to use substances. Temptation and peer pressure can pose significant challenges for teens and young adults who may feel drawn to the perceived mystique of drug use.
Many people also turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms to deal with life’s pressures. Prevention can take the form of cultivating stress management skills, a healthy and active lifestyle, and a positive support system that supports you through life’s trials.
Additionally, some may begin using substances to cope with the symptoms of poor mental health. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health concerns, professional treatment can help you address these issues and develop coping strategies without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Warning Signs of Substance Abuse
Another crucial part of substance abuse prevention is recognizing the signs of drug use early on. Friends and loved ones can play a pivotal role here as they may be the first to recognize the warning signs of substance use. These signs can include both physical and behavioral symptoms.
Since substance use affects the body, physical changes may be clues to potential abuse. If you begin regularly noticing these changes in a loved one, they may be struggling with substance use disorder. Some of these physical symptoms can include:
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Hygiene changes
- Dental issues
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Sleep pattern changes
- Appetite changes
- Shaking or tremors
Often, the symptoms of substance abuse go beyond the physical and begin to show themselves in behavior. Sometimes it may be hard to notice these behavioral changes or associate them with drug or alcohol use, at least initially. A person using substances may not exhibit all of these changes, but they will often exhibit some of them. These behavioral symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Regularly missing work, class, or other responsibilities
- Social withdrawal from hobbies or friend groups
- Social isolation
- Theft of money, valuables, or drugs
- Overactivity or agitation
- Sudden changes in personality or behavior
Learn More About Substance Abuse Prevention Month at New Bridge Foundation®
You can honor National Substance Abuse Prevention Month by educating yourself, donating time or money, or by being there for someone in need. Even with the best substance abuse prevention efforts, many people will struggle with addiction at some point in their lives. That is why New Bridge Foundation® is committed to combating substance use disorder, both through prevention and treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction issues, call New Bridge Foundation® at 866.772.8491 or fill out our online contact form today.