Primary Prevention Strategy
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There are numerous reasons that determine the possibility of an adolescent engaging in drug abuse. Some of these reasons can be classified as either internal factors, e.g. individual’s knowledge or external factors, e.g. presence or lack of social support (Institute of Medicine, O'Connell, Boat, Warner, & National Research Council, 2009). An in-depth analysis of these factors is instrumental in the design and implementation of any initiative because their presence or absence restrain or initiate negative behaviors, such as drug abuse. Understanding the main cause of substance abuse among any adolescent target group is crucial to the development of effective primary prevention.
Primary prevention tries to avoid drug abuse or use before it has a likelihood of occurring. The ultimate aim of primary prevention is to preclude the initial use of drugs by creating awareness among adolescents so that they can turn down invitations. While there is no definite initiative that has been proved to work in isolation, educational initiatives have formed the basis of primary prevention; but just like other initiatives, it does not have the power to change negative behaviors or prevent them from occurring. Educational initiatives aiming to prevent or reduce negative behavior, such as drug abuse or use, among the youth can take many forms. It can be in the form of social marketing strategy or classroom educational sessions on drug abuse. Although this may bridge the immediate gap of preventing drug abuse among adolescents, it can lack sustainability in the sense that there are other compelling factors, such as family or community influence that can make the adolescent fall back into the trap of drug use or abuse (Suchman, 2013). Therefore, the initiative aiming to deal with drug use among adolescents should be focused on the community in the form of connecting people (Institute of Medicine et al., 2009). As a primary initiative to fight the drug abuse among adolescents, connecting people initiative must involve strengthenin positive social-emotional development, reduction of the levels of isolation to support emotional health, enhance social connection in the family, and promote psychological well-being of family members. A wide range of literature has concluded that there is a high chance of children from troubled families to engage in drug abuse (Suchman, 2013).
Adolescence is a delicate stage that puts youths at risk for psychoactive substance abuse, because it is a stage when patterns of behavior are being formed, and they are more likely to be influenced by role models, peers, or even family members who engage in drug abuse (Durlak, & Wells, 1997). While it is not scientifically proved why some adolescents engage in drug abuse, when others do not, adolescence presents an important period when behaviors can be modeled or influenced for the benefit of health. Quality relationships characterized by communication, trust, and absence of wrangles may have a significant impact on the behavior of any adolescent. Research has reported that social ties, social support, and sense of belonging both perceived and actual play a great role in preventing negative health outcomes (Suchman, 2013). Strong social networks in a community correspond to an upsurge in cognitive and physical health and lower homicide cases associated with drug abuse (Durlak, & Wells, 1997).
Promoting the connectedness of the community, especially the family has been known to contribute to the collective efficacy. The importance of community in drug abuse prevention cannot be stressed enough. Most Americans today believe that breakdown of society or community is primarily to blame for the dramatic increase in alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug abuse (Durlak, & Wells, 1997). However, in a connected family or community, all members aim at acting in a manner that promotes a common good that impacts behavioral health. Communities play a key role in providing positive interventions and influences. Adolescents in a highly connected community will be open to discusssing their personal issues. In addition, connected community will be quick to note bad habits, such as drug use among the youth. It will also be aware of the sources and dynamics involved in drug abuse among adolescents.
A connected community can foster social connections by providing an atmosphere of safety, trust, and open communication, especially for adolescents from high-risk backgrounds. In 2009, the Institute of Medicine examined the impact of youth setting on the adolescent well-being and found out that presence of positive setting helped young people develop positive life skills (Institute of Medicine et al., 2009). Some of the skills that young people develop when they are in a good setting include good mental health and positive self-regard, conflict resolution skills, commitment to civic engagement, emotional regulation skills, and social connection. A closer look at these skills reveals that an adolescent who grows in a positive environment will have the ability to decline any chance to engage in drug abuse (Institute of Medicine et al., 2009). These skills are best cultivated in settings that are psychologically and physically safe and secure. A wide range of research also confirms that the youths or adolescents who participate in after-school and school activities like sports and clubs have demonstrated enhanced cognitive and social skills, positive social behavior, higher levels of academic achievement, and fewer risky behaviors (Durlak, & Wells, 1997).
In conclusion, educational initiatives have been used widely to prevent drug abuse, but relying on them alone might not be imperative, especially in the present world. It will not make any significant change if a lot of resources are used in educating people on drug abuse and ignore the environment, in which the adolescents live. However, promoting the connectedness among communities and families will create free and safe environment, which research has confirmed to contribute to positive behavior development, especially among the youths.
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