Although society in general has now become completely averse to drug use and it is no longer considered an attractive and interesting habit, there is still a large number of people who use addictive substances, especially among the young and adolescent population.
However, there are a series of guidelines or recommendations that we can carry out from our role as parents, family members or friends, to prevent young people from starting to use drugs , as well as to stop the development of addiction if it has already begun.
Adolescence and the Risk of Drug Use
Adolescence and post-adolescence is a highly confusing and complicated period of life. The fact that we do not yet have a fully formed identity makes us highly impressionable and susceptible, since during this time the most desired objective is to be able to fit in and feel part of something.
This need to fit in, together with the influence of our peers, the media, television, the press and the very attitude of rebellion, together with the need to experiment with new things; make this period a risk factor for starting and developing a drug addiction.
It is necessary to specify that, when we speak of drug addiction , we are not only referring to the most serious addictions or the strongest and most destructive drugs , the daily consumption of drugs such as cannabis is increasingly high and in the medium-long term it can also lead to harmful consequences.
Why do some young people use drugs?
As mentioned above, adolescence is a very challenging time of life when it comes to drug use. However, there is no single factor that causes a young person or teenager to be attracted to any type of drug.
Social or group pressure is usually one of the main causes why a teenager decides to start using a drug. The need to fit in and feel part of the group, as well as the pressure that the group may exert when it is time to use, may be enough to start using.
Also, this stage of life is often marked by strong feelings of misunderstanding and confusion, as well as a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence.
At other times, drug use takes place as an act of defiance . A way of expressing the nonconformity that the adolescent experiences with that which surrounds him/her. Drug use can be seen as a form of disobedience, both to parents or guardians and to the rest of society in general.
Finally, a scarce knowledge of the real effects of any type of drugs and the influence of some media that still show the consumption of these drugs as something attractive and even interesting, favour the attraction and fascination that these drugs cause on young people .
8 guidelines for preventing drug use in adolescents
Despite all this, there are still things that family, friends or society in general can do to help reduce, and even prevent, drug use by young people.
Despite the fact that at present there are numerous campaigns carried out by institutions and educational centres which try to inform young people about the risks of drug use, as family members and people with adolescents around us we also become direct agents of prevention.
This means that we don’t have to wait for adolescents to receive information about drugs from the outside, we can inform ourselves well and pass on that information , since the fact that it is someone close and trustworthy who transmits it can also be positive.
2. Develop your social skills
In a large number of cases, adolescents are initiated into the world of drugs because someone from their own friendship group offers them drugs . In these cases, the lack of social skills, as well as a lack of emotional education and assertive techniques cause the adolescent to accept the consumption, along with the fear of being rejected.
Knowing this, education in social skills that allow young people to say “no” without any fear is fundamental to prevent them from starting to consume.
3. Encourage the development of positive self-esteem
If we add to the fear of not fitting in that a large number of teenagers do not have high enough self-esteem or do not feel secure enough about themselves, we will find these traits to be a very important risk factor for drug use.
Therefore, helping to develop a high self-esteem that gives them self-confidence , will also be of great importance in preventing young people from resorting to drugs as a way to feel better about themselves.
4. Developing a critical sense
A well-informed and confident teenager will be much more able to develop a critical sense about drug use. If we manage to get the young person to judge drugs as they are , as well as for physical, psychological and social integrity, we will make it possible for him/her to refuse the consumption of any type of narcotic or addictive substance.
5. Encouraging dialogue
Trying to talk to teenagers, show interest in their concerns, not judge and gain their trust , will help them feel comfortable talking to us, tell us their problems. In this way, it will be much easier for us to help them solve them positively and not have to resort to drugs as an escape route or a way to avoid or forget them.
6. Do not try to overprotect them
Although this overprotection is only a reflection of the concern that parents or acquaintances feel about the habits of younger people, these behaviors tend to be counterproductive.
Young people must perceive in their parents, relatives or guardians an attitude of acceptance, a place to turn to when they feel bad or distressed and, to do so, we must transmit that we are open to it but without being overwhelming .
7. Not to be authoritarian
At the beginning of the article we commented that adolescence is characterized by a time of rebellion, in which going against what is imposed or established is almost a vital need.
Therefore, authoritarian educational styles in which parents or guardians impose their opinion or their way of living in an intransigent manner will not be at all effective in preventing drug use. In any case, it is always better to resort to dialogue and consensus .
8. Be consistent with our actions
We will rarely be able to prevent teenagers from using any kind of drugs if they also use them at home. Similarly, for the anti-drug message to be conveyed most effectively, our attitude towards drugs must also be stable and consistent.