Observing Youth Substance Use Prevention Month

Published On: October 11th, 2023Categories: News, Spectrum Corrections

When young people are growing and developing, it’s crucial that they understand the risks life can present to them. Not only are they having formative experiences that could impact them well into their adulthood, but their brains are also still in critical phases of development, making them vulnerable to the risks they take and the habits they form.

Making sure that youths have resources and outlets to discuss things like mental health and substance use is important all year. But since October is National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month, now is an especially important time to highlight the necessity of education and prevention efforts.

Growing Dangers Faced by Younger Generations

Today’s youths are growing up in a rapidly changing world. There are many factors at work that could impact a young person’s future. In addition to the usual challenges of growing up, things like climate change, the automation of jobs, and political instability can weigh on the minds of young people trying to find hope in their future.

To address stress, fear, and uncertainty, young people often drink and use substances. This is not a new development, “party” culture has long been a part of high school and college life. What is new, though, are the types of substances available to young people. Drugs like fentanyl, which have drastically increased overdose deaths in recent years, pose serious risks to young people experimenting with substances. These drugs are often pressed into the shape of doctor-prescribed painkillers or used to lace other substances, causing them to be ingested unknowingly, and making them extremely dangerous to inexperienced users.

Along with the risk young people face for overdose, they are also at considerable risk of developing long-term addiction. Research has shown that the younger people use substances, the more likely they are to become addicted. Alcohol and substances interrupt the chemical development of the brain, restructuring its rewards system. Young people might not realize the gravity of the habit they are forming until they’ve already become dependent on a substance.

Why Substance Use Education and Awareness is Important

Contrary to what some may believe, educating young people about the risks of drinking and substance use does not make them more curious about or interested in drinking or taking drugs. Education and prevention efforts help youths make more informed choices.

Giving young people the space to have conversations about drinking and substance use can also help them address and understand their relationships with friends, family members, and loved ones who may be experiencing addiction issues. Bringing these conversations out in the open can keep them from feeling ashamed or afraid to share their thoughts and experiences. Open discussions can also connect young people with like-minded peers, allowing them to bond with and seek support from people that influence them positively.

Taking a Holistic Approach to Substance Use Prevention

Discussing prevention is important for all young people. For those with addiction issues in their family or friend group, this is especially true. There is not one cause for addiction—it isn’t purely genetic or the result of one’s surroundings—but growing up with addiction present in one’s home or close friend group can increase the likelihood of someone developing addiction issues of their own.

When bringing up substance use prevention and education, it’s also helpful to remember that supporting young people’s all-around health and wellbeing also contributes to prevention efforts. Making sure young people feel seen and holding space for them to openly discuss mental health, relationships, the new responsibilities they face, and other fluctuating aspects of their life also serves as substance use prevention. When young people feel better on a mental, emotional, and academic level, they lead more balanced lives and are less likely to seek the use of substances for relief.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.

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