Substance Abuse Prevention

Alcohol and other drug use among our nation’s youth remains a major public health problem

Substance use and abuse can increase the risk for injuries, violence, HIV infection, and other diseases.

Drug Abuse Can Begin Young
According to the The Partnership at, 90 percent of drug and alcohol addictions begin in the teenage years.

Additionally, research cited by Halzelden, an addiction treatment center, indicates that adolescents who begin drinking before age 14 are significantly more likely to experience alcohol dependence at some point in their lives compared to individuals who begin drinking after 21 years of age. In addition, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a number of negative consequences, such as physical or sexual assault, unintentional injuries, memory problems, legal problems, and impaired school performance.

The primary goal of prevention is to delay the first use of alcohol or other drugs. That's why delaying the age of first use of alcohol and drugs is a critical goal of prevention. Other protective factors, especially proactive parenting and strong family bonds, can help delay adolescents' experimentation with drugs and alcohol and thus help reduce long-term problems.

Experimenting Can Lead to Drug Abuse
Often drug abuse begins small. Experimenting with alcohol, marijana or prescription drugs may seem harmless enough at the beginning. Soon, however, the addicitive nature of these items can act as a gateway to increased use, dependence and more dangerous substances. These behaviors can lead to accidents, legal trouble and serious health issues.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office says that prescription drugs have become the second most abused drug, above marijuana.

READ MORE: Prescription drugs often the gateway to harder drugs

Not Everyone is Doing It
Peer pressure can be excruciatingly intense, especially when the message is about having fun. Many teens feel compelled to drink, do drugs and engage in other risky behaviors, because they feel like “everyone else is doing it” or that it is just a part of having a good time.

A number of studies have shown that the overestimation of peer alcohol and cigarette use is widespread among students of middle and high school. Other research has found that overestimation of peer use is a significant predictor of adolescent cigarette and alcohol use, and that adolescent onset of use can be significantly delayed by reducing misperceptions of alcohol and cigarette use among peers.

READ MORE: Facts show ‘everyone is NOT doing it’

Parents & Trusted Adults Make a Difference
While peer pressure can be difficult for teens to resist, consistant and pervasive messages from the adults in their lives can make a huge difference. It is important that the same message about substance abuse prevention be delivered repeatedly by multiple sources in our young people's lives, including parents, school and the community.

According to the Partnership at, kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not.

Parent Tips: Prevention

Help your teen stay safe and make healthy choices by:

  • Talking and listening regularly
  • Being directly involved in your child’s everyday world
  • Making it clear that you do not want him or her drinking or using drugs
  • Setting limits

Source: Partnership at

Take Action
If you think or know that your child is using drugs or alcohol-- it is important to move quickly.

Casual or experimental drug use can quickly turn into drug abuse.

Parent Tips: Intervention

If you are at all concerned about your child – or even just have a bad feeling – you can and should intervene by:

  • Setting tighter limits with clear consequences
  • Getting outside help and support if necessary
  • Having productive conversations with your child -- remain calm, share your concerns and listen.
  • Closely monitoring your child's behavior and activities

Source: The Partnership at

Metro Crisis Line
Metro Crisis Services offers a hotline for those struggling with a mental or emotional problem, getting into trouble with drugs or alcohol, having family or relationship problems, or problems at work or school. Support and guidance is free and confidential.

Parents Toll-Free Helpline
1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)
Partnership at offers a hotline to help parents struggling with how to handle their child's substance abuse. It is open Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time.