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Drug Prevention

Drug Prevention
Drug Prevention | ©: - Fotolia

For decades, it is the fear of most parents that their child gets involved with the wrong crowd and subsequently becomes addicted to drugs. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to addictions because they are still developing – physically, mentally and spiritually. Also, as a rule of the thumb they do not have the necessary life experience to fall back on to help themselves and, therefore, prevent the development of a dependency.

Hence, drug prevention is so important. It involves preventive measures, such as educational campaigns programs, projects, etc. which are designed to reduce the risk of addictions. Ideally, those programs should include all the people in the child’s or young person’s environment. This means parents, school and youth groups, for example, are requested to step up to the challenge and work together.

What is an addiction?

The term addiction describes a pathological picture (an etymology of the word "sick") of a medical or psychological condition. However, today this term is no longer used in the respective medical field. It was replaced with more appropriate terms: dependency syndrome, impulse control disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Those new descriptions define the various forms of addiction:

  • "dependency syndrome" = dependencies on certain substances.

  • "impulse control disorder" and "obsessive compulsive disorder" = dependencies on non-bonded substances.

However, you have to differentiate between those faculties. In this light, still, the formal and informal work with addicts, regarding the addiction, comes first.

These days the word addiction has made it in our everyday language. People refer to themselves as "addicted" to certain foods, people, places, etc. However, that has nothing to do with addictions in the medical or psychological context. A dependency is when the person concerned shows a morbid, excessive or compulsive behaviour or makes a compulsive, excessive and pathological use of substances. One must distinguish from medically or psychologically defined dependencies, which when discontinued form withdrawal symptoms as this is with drugs.

Addiction preventions parents can take

The first (and often the most effective) place for drug prevention are the parents. They have the closest connection to the child and spend the most time with him. It would be their job to recognize symptoms of addictions as early as possible and take the appropriate measures.

binge drinking
Youth and alcohol | ©: lassedesignen - Fotolia

First of all, every parent is a unique role model for their child. For this reason alone, parents should not engage in the consumption of any drugs. This includes so-called “soft” and legal drugs, such as nicotine and alcohol. For example, alcohol should only be consumed very limited and, if possible, not in front of children. The same applies to drugs. Also, take into consideration other important behaviours, such as excessive watching TV, the use of video games, etc. A corresponding addictive behaviour lurks even there. To pose as a positive role model for your child, this also includes explaining to the young person, that crisis, on one hand and festivities, on the other hand, can be managed without the consumption of intoxicants.

Likewise, parents should be encouraged, to keep a close and trusting relationship with their children even in difficult times. In this regard, regular dialogue and joint activities are suitable. Let your child know that you are on his side even if the going gets tough but do not divert from your hard line concerning a zero tolerance to drug use.

It is equally important for parents to take time for their children. This can be in regular discussions or activities both parties enjoy. Particular in a situation as such, children need the reassurance of their parents. That they (the parents) always have their back, even the young person does not make that easy for the parents or any other person around the teenager.

If, as a parent, you reach the point, where you feel your preventative measures are in vain or you unable to reach your child any longer, this would be the time to seek professional help. For example, you could start with the child’s school, dependency counselling centres or any other youth welfare office. Addresses for appropriate services are available through your local phone book.

Addiction prevention through school, media & other outlets

Media, in particular, reaches children and teenagers and has a great influence on them at the same time. Therefore, for a long time now, experts are calling for an increase of campaigns in the arena of drug prevention. However, the impression is that their coverage is rather declining in the recent years. I am sure; almost everybody still remembers the campaign “No power to drugs”. However, this was already many years ago. A “worthy successor” did not follow up.

Drug Prevention: addiction to cigarette
Drug Prevention: addiction to cigarette | ©: ststoev - Fotolia

In schools, there is a whole range of opportunities regarding drug prevention. Various projects can build on each other. For example, there could be a theoretical introduction to the subject (in the form of talks, discussions, films, etc.). This basis could be continued or expanded through practical work. For example, through following up in groups and project teams. It would be great if already affected people (i.e. former addicts or recovering alcoholics) could weigh in. Sharing their experience often counts for more than any theoretical work, to this subject, could ever do.

An excellent idea would be if school and parents could work together in an attempt to achieve the greatest possible drug prevention possible. Some schools have already recognized this and offer special parent meetings with the main topic of dependency prevention.

Dependency prevention and youth work

In the field of youth work, a lot can be done for effective drug prevention. Sometimes even more then in schools because there is no teacher-child (young person) hierarchy. By now there is a whole range of material available, particularly for youth workers that you can use at your meetings. Among other there are presentation templates and worksheets. Also, there are regular conferences, congresses and development workshops on offer.

Games, in particular, are very suitable for lessons on the subject of drug prevention. For example, using a quiz night you can inform yourself about the knowledge of the children in your care on the subject of drugs and prevention. You could initiate discussion nights depending on the results.

Youth party:

Without any doubt, there are celebrations in your youth group. That could be New Year’s Eve, a birthday or a disco night. If you plan for the consumption of alcohol at these occasions, you are not working towards drug prevention. After all there are quite a few non-alcoholic cocktails available. Therefore, it could be a creative and fun activity offering the best alcohol-free cocktails around.

Summer camps:

Summer camp is a time for the kids, to spend some time away from home. With other like-minded kids their age the experience some great and exciting days. There it can happen that one or the other brought cigarettes and alcohol along. For some children or young people, this might be their first contact to those contrabands. It’s up to the youth worker now, to initiate conversations about this issue. This occasion offers itself to start a conversation about the beginning of addictions.

Finding starting points for discussions:

Out of this situation mentioned above access points may emerge. Drug prevention starts already here, quite early, where the risks are not as pressing yet. Why, does one resorts to cigarettes or alcohol? What can be the consequences? How can you recognize that you are on a downward spiral? Why are so many people with a dependency problem unable to recognize this downward spiral? When are you an addict? Besides alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, what other addiction are there?

What impact do addictions have on our lives, profession, school and future? How do they impact on our psyche, our family life, the way we live together, our friends, etc., etc.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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