Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What is youth substance abuse prevention? Start with risk & protective factors . . .

What is substance abuse prevention?  Understanding risk and protective factors is one place to start to gain an understanding of what substance abuse prevention is and is not.

Communities working together to prevent youth substance abuse can look at what factors increase risk of substance abuse and what factors protect against substance abuse in their communities.  Risk factors can increase a person’s chances for drug abuse while protective factors can reduce the risk.  Prevention strategies work towards decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors.

Above is a chart displaying risk factors for substance abuse as well as delinquency, teen pregnancy, school drop-out and violence.  Risk factors that the Prevention WINS coalition has identified in northeast Seattle are family management problems (regarding monitoring youth and setting consequences) and youth favorable attitudes towards drugs and alcohol.  In other communities risk factors may include low neighborhood attachment, lack of commitment to school, or early and persistent anti-social behavior.  Each community is different and, therefore, prevention strategies may vary community to community.

Protective factors include individual traits such as a resilient temperament and a pro-social orientation.  Community protective factors include opportunities for youth to be involved in pro-social activities and being recognized for those activities.  At home, families can bolster protection by increasing family bonds, reinforcing healthy beliefs and setting clear standards.

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