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Why is it important to sensitise young adults about drug intake and abuse

August 31, 2021
Reviewed by: Lisa Misquith

It is not uncommon for young adults of today’s generation to be introduced to the idea of drug and substance abuse at an early age, given the widespread knowledge of it available on social media, television, Youtube videos, or by the possible usage of it by their peers. Thus, for many, it can become a part of growing up as they find themselves trying different substances including alcohol, illegal drugs, cigarettes, inhalants, marijuana, etc. They could do this for the temporary relaxation and ‘feel-good’ factor that these substances provide, out of their curiosity to know the feeling of getting high, out of rebellion against their parents, or just to fit in with their peers.

However, what may not get seriously conveyed to this population are the adverse effects of engaging in substances. It negatively affects one’s physical growth, general health, and social and emotional development; decreases the capacity to think rationally, react quickly, and make decisions. It can make it hard to control actions and become the cause of unnecessary aggressive and unsafe sexual behaviours. In addition, for some of these young adults, this ‘one-time trial’ may turn into a serious substance use problem.

Prevention Measures

Therefore, it becomes paramount that the adults (parents and teachers) have a sensitizing talk with these youngsters that can significantly help in the prevention of drug intake and abuse. It is important to do so during an uninterrupted time and without anger or the assertion of parental authority so that it becomes a ‘conversation’ emphasizing good listening skills and understanding rather than a ‘lecture’ and ‘threat’ so that the young adults can be receptive. You can –

  • Ask for their views – Get to know their opinions and questions regarding drugs, while creating an atmosphere that encourages them to be honest with you.
  • Make them aware of the negative effects – Without needing to threaten or scare them, you can sensitize them about how the use of drugs can impact the areas of life important to them – such as health, driving, appearance, career, etc.
  • Talk about media messages – Converse about the content they read and see on social media platforms about drugs and make them aware of the right and the wrong content spread across the media, television, songs, and movies so that they do not buy into the false glamorization or trivialization of the adverse effects of drug intake through these platforms.
  • Help them resist peer pressure – You can together brainstorm how they can react to their friends/ colleagues’ substance abuse pressures and how they can distance themselves personally from the intake.
  • Talk about your past addiction history, if any – Talking about your past history if any, regarding substance use or any kind of addiction, may help a young adult connect to his/ her life experience and may influence his/ her decisions in a moderate or mild way. 
  • Be supportive – Encouraging them about taking the right steps away from drug intake, and towards a better and productive future can act as a positive reinforcer for young adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A strong bond with them coupled with encouragement can help keep them away from considering drug intake to be a way of life.

Seeking Help

When it comes to seeking help for a young adult found engaging in drug intake and/or abuse, know that you cannot intervene too early, since even casual drug intake can lead to addiction and cause health or legal problems such as time in jail, probation, heavy fines, etc. During a talk intervention, it is important to express that you are coming from a place of concern, and see the person and the problem as two different things. You can get to know more about their whereabouts, the friends they hang out with, and whether they engage in drugs – to understand the severity of the problem. Finally, you can consult a counsellor, doctor, or a rehabilitation centre as a source of professional help.

How Rehabs Help

Rehabilitation centres have counsellors and doctors that help each individual on their path to recovery from drug abuse. For this purpose, in addition to education about the topic, regular individual counselling sessions are offered that help each patient discover emotional and psychological factors that may be contributing to the drug abuse. These are important to identify if the patient is to make full recovery. Group sessions for patients with similar addictions are also offered by counsellors that serve as a basis of close personal bonds where patients are encouraged by each other on their path to recovery.

In addition, patients learn to identify and combat their triggers, whether they are physical, emotional, part of their daily routines or relationships, which helps them get out of circumstances that lead them to drug abuse. For this, a personalized set of coping skills is developed for each patient. This could include changing negative habits that are associated with the addiction such as certain leisure activities, or even a patient’s career or routine life.

Since recovery is considered a lifelong process, many rehabs also offer post-rehab group and individual counselling sessions and support groups that ensure abstinence from the addiction.

The Obstacle to Seeking Help: STIGMA

A general stigma already exists in our society regarding mental health and its treatment, however, the stigma attached to the treatment of addiction soars even higher than the norm. This is because of the common misconceptions regarding addiction and the person struggling with it, which makes the one struggling or their loved ones afraid of seeking help from a professional. These include –

  • Addiction is always a choice – Scientists now understand that addiction is more than a choice since various genetic and environmental factors are contributors to this disease.
  • People with addictions are bad or weak – This is not the case as addictions happen to normal people, and instead of being labelled bad or weak, what they need is compassion and understanding of what is causing and/ or maintaining their behaviour. This is what professionals are qualified to do.
  • Equating the illness with the person – Society finds it easy, sometimes, to label people by their illness, especially when it is regarding mental health. For instance, a person with schizophrenia being labelled a ‘schizophrenic’, a person with bipolar disorder being labelled a ‘bipolar’ person, and so on. A person with addiction is simply a person – one who happens to be struggling with the illness of addiction at a particular point in their life. What people are not necessarily aware of is that addiction rehab facilities are often the most effective way to help a person manage his addiction thus empowering him back to lead a productive and successful life. Moreover, it is important to realize that the negative stigmas reflect society and not the person with the addiction. After all, what people think should not get in the way of the treatment that will help a person live a better life.


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