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Substance abuse or drug abuse is a growing issue among young people. Substance abuse can cause problems at school or work, create mental and physical health issues, produce unhealthy relationships, cause vehicle accidents, and stress. Substance abuse can also cause life-long issues including chronic health problems, financial and social problems, and substance dependency.

Substance abuse is classified as using substances including alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and prescription drugs that cause pain or suffering from repeated use. It can cause:

  • Failure to fulfill everyday responsibilities at work, school or home.
  • Dangerous situations such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Legal issues.
  • Personal or social issues to become worse.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance amongst the youth in the United States. Young people participate in underage drinking and binge drinking and their blood alcohol content reaches 0.08 or higher. Binge drinking can have negative behaviors related to it. It can also cause other problems like co-occurring disorders. According to, on an average, 60-75% of the youth with a substance abuse problem have co-occurring disorders.

Developing a substance abuse problem can cause a negative impact on your life. Those who suffer from substance abuse need support and the right tools to walk the path to recovery. To avoid substance abuse, one must get educated on how to prevent it.

Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse

It is nearly impossible to stop someone from using drugs until they are ready. However, there are some tactics we can use to avoid drug or alcohol abuse. With this knowledge, you may be able to prevent someone from using drugs and developing substance abuse. Here are five ways to help prevent drug abuse:

  1. Handle peer pressure. Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons young adults, and even adults begin using drugs. When with friends, no one likes being left out, so they may find themselves doing things they would not usually do, so that they fit in. Your true friends will never pressure you into participating in something you are not comfortable with.
  2. Handle life pressure. At some point, everyone feels overwhelmed or overworked and needs a break. However, leaning towards drugs can make things more stressful, and sometimes it is hard to realize this in the beginning. To prevent the use of drugs as a reward, find other ways to handle stressful situations. Try exercising, volunteering, crafts or reading a book. Anything positive to help take your mind off using drugs to relieve stress is beneficial in preventing substance abuse.
  3. Get help for mental illness. Substance abuse and mental illness are connected. Suffering from mental illness may make you want to turn to drugs to try and relieve the pain. Mental illness can range from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. If you have a mental illness, get help from a professional for treatment rather than turning to substance abuse.
  4. Observe the risk influences. Ensure you are mindful of environmental, physical and biological stressors that could cause drug abuse. If you are aware of these stressors, you have a better chance of overcoming them. Having a family history of substance abuse or living in environments where drug or alcohol abuse is present can make these risk factors harder to overcome. Instead, remove yourself from these situations.
  5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those who use drugs, often do so because something is not going right in their life, or because they are unhappy with certain situations. However, looking at the bigger picture and realizing that life would be worse once substance abuse has taken over can help you prioritize your responsibilities.

Substance Abuse Prevention Strategies

Lessons from parents, teachers, doctors and the media help communicate to young adults and adults about the risks of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs which can destroy your life and how to prevent addiction and substance abuse. School-based prevention programs, community coalitions, or community-based organizations can help prevent addiction in children, teens, and adolescents by:

  • Strengthening self-esteem
  • Increasing communication and decision-making skills
  • Refraining from social pressure that involves substance abuse
  • Coping with anxiety and stress

Other substance abuse prevention strategies include:

  • Limiting marketing companies on advertising addictive substances that seem appealing to the youth.
  • Increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.
  • Confining prescription medications.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

It can be hard to recognize a drug or alcohol problem in yourself or someone else. Individuals will try to hide or tone down their addiction or consumption of drugs and alcohol. There are many reasons people try to hide their abuse; it could be because of embarrassment, codependent relationships or just the belief that their level of consumption is not an issue. However, it is often up to loved ones to recognize these warning signs and encourage the person to seek treatment.

Substance abuse affects each person differently. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

Physical Signs of Substance Abuse:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Glazed eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Constricted pupils
  • A sudden change in weight
  • Bruises
  • Infections
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cold, sweaty or shaky hands
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Odd smells on their body, clothes or breath
  • Hyperactivity (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Poor coordination
  • Needle marks on the arms, legs or feet
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • A runny nose
  • Pale, puffy or red face
  • The decline of hygiene or physical health

Behavioral signs of Substance Abuse:

  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Change in personality
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in social networks
  • Change in habits or priorities
  • Financial issues
  • Participating in criminal activities
  • Change in performance at work or school
  • Dishonesty
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of motivation or self-esteem
  • Paranoia
  • Secretive behavior
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Unexplained need for money
  • Stealing
  • Alcohol-related injuries

Be aware of the physical evidences that could warrant drug and alcohol abuse. These can include burnt spoons, needles, excessive prescription drug bottles, bongs, and alcohol bottles. Not always will someone show physical or behavioral signs of abuse. In the beginning, however, some of the first signs of abuse include dilated pupils, needle marks, and bloody noses. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to discuss them with your loved one and encourage them to seek substance abuse treatment from a drug and alcohol professional. If you or a loved one is ready to begin your path to recovery, contact Serenity Acres.