Substance use disorder, commonly referred to as substance addiction, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug and/or alcohol seeking and use with no regard for the devastating effects they can have on an individual’s physical, mental, and social well-being, as well as on their relationships, work, and finances.
Substance use disorders are a major health concern in the US and a leading cause of preventable death in the country. Fortunately, substance use disorder is preventable, and there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing this condition. These include:
1. Understanding the Risk Factors
The first step in preventing substance use disorder is to understand the risks associated with drug and alcohol use. Numerous factors can contribute to the development of substance use disorder, including genetics, environmental factors, and social influences.
Understanding these risk factors can help you make informed choices and take the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of developing substance use disorder.
2. Avoiding peer pressure
Peer pressure is a common cause of substance use disorder, particularly among young people. It is key to surround yourself with people who share your values and support your decisions. Avoid situations where drugs or alcohol are present, and stay away from people who pressure you to use them.
3. Practicing Responsible Medication Use
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States, and it is important to practice responsible medication use. This may include only taking medications as prescribed, properly disposing of unused medications, and never sharing prescription drugs with others.
4. Seeking Help for Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD are some of the leading causes of substance use disorder. As such, it is vital to seek help from a qualified mental health professional if you are struggling with any mental health issues. Professional treatment can help promote mental wellness and significantly reduce the likelihood of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug or alcohol use, in a bid to cope with symptoms.
5. Practicing Self-Care
Stress, boredom, and fatigue are all major risk factors for substance use disorder. To reduce the risk of developing a problem, it is crucial to take steps to reduce stress levels and practice self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in enjoyable hobbies. This can provide an outlet for stress, helping you stay away from drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with difficult emotions and circumstances.
Education is another valuable tool for preventing substance use disorder. Parents, schools, and healthcare professionals can help ensure the public, especially the youth, are aware of the risks associated with drug and alcohol use. This includes teaching them about the dangers of addiction, how to resist peer pressure, and where to seek help if they or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse.
7. Establishing a Strong Social Support System
When you’re going through a rough patch in life, it is important to have a strong support system of family and friends you can turn to. Having people you can rely on for emotional and psychological support will ensure you have a safe space to turn to in times of need. Essentially, this reduces the likelihood of turning to substance use to cope with challenging emotions and circumstances.
Substance use disorder is a complex mental illness with far-reaching consequences. And despite being a preventable condition, it is still a major public health concern and one of the leading causes of accidental and preventable death across the nation.
The above steps offer practical strategies for reducing the risk of developing a substance use disorder. If you or someone close to you is already struggling with the effects of substance abuse, do not hesitate to seek professional help.