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Written by Michele Wheat Last edited: 4/1/2019
Drug and Alcohol abuse prevention programs are most often aimed at young people and recovering addicts. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence over 23 million people aged 12 and up are addicted to either alcohol or drugs. These can be neighbors, friends, co-workers or family.
The US is currently wrapped up in a very serious opioid epidemic which saw 47,600 overdose deaths (67.8% of nationwide overdose fatalities) from opioids in 2017 alone. The current use of fentanyl is proving to be especially deadly. Deaths from fentanyl have gone up 1000% over the last 6 years and the New York City Health Department has seen a sharp rise in deaths from fentanyl mixed with cocaine. This is cause for concern in spite of the fact that trends show a decrease in illicit drug use amongst 12th graders since the 1980s and 1990s. The internet has changed the information available about drugs through sites like Erowid, and now boasts a drug marketplace through the dark-web, which takes the purchasing process off of the streets. On top of all this, laboratories are creating new street drugs at an incredible rate and medical personnel can barely keep up.
The vanguard of drug abuse prevention begins at home with parents. If a parent does not know how to foster anti-substance abuse in the home, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a primer that can help guide them. It is imperative for people to be able to recognize the signs of drug or alcohol abuse both in themselves and in the people around them.
The Department of Justice has gathered strategies such as teaching prevention in schools and reaching out to at-risk communities after identifying said communities. After noting the prescription medicine crisis, the DEA has offered to take back unused prescription painkillers. In doing so, the agency hopes to keep the drugs out of the wrong hands after the medication's initial and intended use.
There are many drug awareness programs focusing on the consequences of drugs, and how to deal with things like peer pressure, or a friend who may have a drug problem. After school programs and extra-curricular activities offer a haven for young people to gather and socialize in a safe space with responsible guidance. These types of programs can also normalize healthy interactions amongst non-drug abusing peers. These programs help keep kids off of drugs and interested in activities that can better serve both themselves and their communities.
Relapse prevention programs are available to people who have already fallen victim to substance abuse but have regained their physical, psychological and social composure through sobriety. Recovery care keeps in mind that addiction changes the way that the brain works and aims to build coping mechanisms to address the "triggers" that a recovering addict will experience. Many programs will strive to change the reinforced thinking patterns around drinking. Someone in recovery will be encouraged to form new activities and social networks with avoidance of drugs and alcohol in mind Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) both have systems of "sponsorship" in which a member of the group with more sobriety and experience can support and guide another less experienced member. This gives the sponsor a sense of purpose and service to their community while their mentee gains wisdom that is otherwise difficult to attain.
Active military and military veterans are also seen to be at risk for substance abuse due to PTSD and the stresses of assimilating to civilian life after deployment. The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) estimates that 60% of veterans are experiencing pain after returning from service overseas, which is twice the percentage of the civilian population. This high percentage puts veterans more at risk of being treated with, and consequently becoming addicted to painkillers or heroin. Veterans may face social isolation due to PTSD and may have needs not covered by the Veterans Administration. Luckily there are strategies available for those who may be looking, and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) has created the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center, which is working at state levels to reinforce behavioral health systems that serve veterans. Any concerned veteran or family member of a veteran is welcomed to call the Veterans Crisis Line at any time.
If additional help is needed to determine if someone is addicted, to get information on addiction prevention, to find counseling, support or rehabilitation or to talk to an expert, a number of hotlines exist both on a national and statewide level. For parents dealing with addictions in their children, a dedicated hotline exists.