We should be clear from the beginning: there is no guaranteed way to stop you or a loved one from becoming addicted to or abusing substances. If there was, nobody would become dependent on drugs or alcohol.
However, there are steps you can take to minimize the likelihood of substance abuse and dependency. Sharing this knowledge with those around you might help someone who might have otherwise slipped through the cracks, stay on the right track.
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One of the most common reasons why people abuse substances, is because they are experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety and lack a coping mechanism. They then turn to drugs or alcohol to provide a temporary escape from the stress spiral.
The substances only serve to intensify the feelings of stress and anxiety, causing a vicious cycle where users abuse substances to provide relief from the feelings of anxiety caused by using substances.
To avoid entering the vicious cycle in the first place, identify stress and develop healthy ways of coping. These might include intense exercise, venting to friends and family or visiting a counsellor to talk through sources of stress and anxiety.
Avoid Peer Pressure and Dangerous Friendships
Peer pressure isn’t just something experienced by high school students. There is such a thing as adult peer pressure. If you are worried about developing an alcohol or drug addiction, and you have a friendship with someone who is based around drinking or using substances, it might be better to avoid seeing that person until you have a better handle on your situation.
If you surround yourself with users, then you are more likely to use it. Not because they will force you to, but because your affinity for that person may cloud your judgment in social situations.
Seek Professional Help for Mental Illness
Unfortunately, mental illness and substance abuse often go hand in hand. When treatments don’t work, many users self-medicate with harmful drugs and alcohol. If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD or post-traumatic stress, ensure there is professional help available to reduce the temptation of self-medication.
Build Healthy Habits
It takes just two months to start a new habit. After two months of frequent action, the behavior becomes automatic. This can be damaging if the habit is unhealthy, but on the other hand, it can be a source of resilience.
If you are concerned about substance abuse, building healthy habits can mitigate your risk of falling into bad habits. Developing a healthy eating and exercise plan, then sticking to it until it becomes a habit, can be a helpful way to reduce the temptation of drugs and alcohol. Exercise and healthy eating releases endorphins in your brain, which can also help combat depression and anxiety.
Understand When You Are at Risk
Knowing your family’s history of substance abuse helps prevent you and your family members from falling into the same pitfalls as previous generations. Addiction is linked, in part, to genetics. This means if your parents struggled with addiction, you might be at risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction as well. Knowing that you are at risk means you can take extra precautions to prevent substance abuse from becoming an outlet.