Drug addiction is a chronic disease that impacts the brain of the addict. Much like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, addiction is preventable. One might have a genetic predisposition to addiction, but that doesn’t mean they are destined to become an addict. Prevention is the single most effective key in curing addiction.
Prevention comes in two forms, each attacking a different level of addiction. The first form is preventing drug use in the first place. Anyone who may be prone to addiction can prevent it from developing simply by never using addictive substances. The second form comes in the form of preventing a relapse once an addict has become clean.
Both types of prevention are equally important. Someone who has already become addicted will require a certain type of preventative program, while an adolescent or adult who is prone to addiction will require another type of program.
Preventing Drug Use from Ever Occurring
There are numerous prevention programs available that aim to prevent at-risk adolescents from forming an addiction. Most programs are aimed at those in their teen years and into young adulthood.
However, this doesn’t mean that adults don’t require the same prevention programs.
Research funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and conducted by various federal agencies has found that prevention programs can greatly reduce the possibility of an addiction forming. They have detailed a number of principles of effective prevention programs.
The Principles of a Prevention Program
Anyone looking for a prevention program for themselves or someone they love should look for one that embodies the following the principles:
- Prevention programs should increase protective elements while reducing risk factors. This includes altering the person’s environment to prevent the possibility of drug usage while at the same time improving their protection against abuse. For example, a program that emphasizes after school activities will greatly help reduce risk factors while providing protective elements.
- Prevention programs should include an element of family involvement. An ideal program will help improve family bonds and facilitate the ability to have open discussions. Shared interests and activities should be explored in these situations.
- Prevention programs should develop vital life skills for avoiding usage. The best prevention programs will develop life skills in the individual that will help them handle situations in which drug use might occur. For example, they’ll develop:
- Communication skills
- Emotional awareness
- Social problem solving
Each of these principles will ideally be combined into an effective method of preventing drug use from ever occurring, never giving it a chance to develop into full blown addiction.
Preventing a Destructive Relapse
Once drug addiction has taken root, prevention takes on a new meaning. After the user has become sober, they must remain sober. Preventing a relapse will help the former user continue to experience a sober life. Below are a few ways that a former addict can prevent a painful relapse.
Avoid old drug using friends.
Socializing is one of the biggest reasons why people use. Ending all ties with people who used to use with the former addict will greatly help avoid a relapse. It will help avoid slipping back into destructive habits.
Avoid bars and clubs.
This might not be true for every recovering addict, but drug are often used in these popular settings. Avoiding them altogether will help avoid situational triggers and reduce cravings.
Develop healthy new habits.
Avoiding people and situations is great, but replacing them is equally important.
Develop a new healthy habit, such as hiking or bicycling, and find new friends who share that same habit.
Avoiding a relapse is very achievable using the above methods. Prevention is the most important key in curing addiction in both of the above situations.
- DrugFacts: Lessons from Prevention Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2014, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/lessons-prevention-research
- Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.,Overcoming Drug Addiction: Substance Abuse Treatment, Recovery, and Help, Help Guide, February 2015, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/overcoming-drug-addiction.htm