Around the world, its becomin clear that family needs to be fully on board for prevention and early intervention strategies that can prevent substance abuse and addiction.
Addiction is documented to be an adolescent onset illness 90% of adults who abuse substances began the use before age 18. The parents and public health services need to do everything possible to delay the first substance use among adolescent. This is hard knowing that the competition is between big business in alcohol and drug suppliers competing for your child’s ttention.
The Developing youth’s brain is not only susceptible to addiction, it’s also more prone to related trauma caused by substance use. There is enough research finding that alcohol and drug have long term effect on the brain.
With all the information on the theories around addiction, its confusing where to start to prevent this from happening with your kids.
Most parents are confused on what to do or not do. Additionally, a parent can only take care of only the individual family side, there is still a bigger community that seems set to attract the youth into addiction which cannot be ignored. The youth once with start might not be easy for you to talk into stop or seek help. if you need help on how to know how to talk to your kid headed for addiction, check out the addiction coach that may help.
My Introduction to substance abuse
When I was 9 years old, I started noticing behavioral changes with my brother who was only 2 years my senior.
The changes were shortly after he had a major transition to a boarding school. For one, he stopped helping with house chores, he argued that these were girl’s duties. He also started hanging out with the boys and coming home late.
I thought this were normal growing changes and I guess my parents thought the same.
A year later, my brother attempted suicide by mixing medical pills cocktail when my parents were not home because he had tried to drive the family car and crushed on a wall. With the help of the neighbors, we rushed him to the hospital which was only a few feet from our house.
In hindsight this was the first major sign that my brother was already abusing alcohol. I’m not sure if my parents noticed, especially because he was already a difficult child, always getting in trouble.
The alcohol abuse issue did not come up, at least not to my knowledge. In spite of the alcohol use at a very early age, he was able to hide his habits for a long time especially because he was also academically gifted and was able to keep his grades very high.
Parents role in Prevention
I don’t think any parent is prepared to find out that their child is using any substance especially at an early age, in fact, most parents will be in denial and underplay the symptoms in front of them. As a parent, I believe its safe to assume that any child is a candidate to substance use.
All substances, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs are now available to your kids as soon as they leave the house.
Parents are the first defense to prevention of substance abuse. This includes developing clear line of communication with your kids and also talking to them about substances, substance use and abuse from an early age, at grade school would be a safe time to start.
Children not only listen to parents, they pick on how parents address this same issues. Your kids will pay attention to how you consume alcohol, tobacco or other substances at home and in social events with friends and family. How you handle difficult and stressful situations will come across as an example to your kids and these will in most cases drown anything else you tell them. These includes how you handle stress, pain and also how you respond to anger.
In my family, this unfortunately was not the case. Alcohol was heavily used in every social event and in most cases abused. This of course made easy for my brother to excuse his habits and my parents in an odd spot for discussion.
Recent Research on Prevention of substance abuse
Based on my experience, a few things stand out in the current research which indicate that prevention of substance abuse is possible at an early age.
1. Just by looking at the way kids cope with stress, you could tell when the kid is at the risk for substance abuse even before they started using any substances (Drugs or alcohol). The studies argue that this indicates that it’s their form of coping that they are abusing.
2. Identifying protective environments were some key indicators in one of the most successful abuse reduction program. The factors that were indicated include:
a. Being part of organized physical activities like sports 3 to 4 times a week.
b. The amount of time parents spent with the kids in the week.
c. Kids being at home in the evenings and not coming home late from out doors.
d. School environment: Feeling cared for at school.
What you must do as a parent:
Parents or guardians can help by learning how to communicate with their teens to bring the family together. The Family environment need to be healthy where all members have the ability to communicate effectively and openly.
When my son was in early teenage he took the public bus home after school on days he did not have sports. The one conversation I can never forget is when we were having dinner and he shared how someone approached him at the bus stop and asked him: “Hey kid, want some grass”. As a parent, I had to stay calm and continue the conversation making it a learning moment. It also scared me a lot to see how vulnerable my son was. It gave me the courage to renegotiate my work schedule to be able to pick him from home school every day.
There is so much that is introduced to kids from prescription drugs to illegal and legal drugs. The kids are also inventing new ways to get high. As a parent, you should make every effort to educate yourself on what is going on in your kid’s world and also be prepared to answer any questions when they ask.
Prevention of substance abuse for your kids should start early from helping your kids pick friends to developing communication lines with your kids early and also knowing your kids and how they respond to, and cope with stress.
Should your kid slip into substance use, be prepared to coach them back to delay the onset of heavy use to have their brain fully develop and avoid the possibility of addiction along the way.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,