Substance Abuse Education and Prevention

Drugs, also known as psychoactive substances, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), are substances that, when taken in or administered into one’s system, affect mental processes e.g. cognition or affect. In simpler terms, psychoactive substances are any drugs or substances that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings or behaviour.

Some of these drugs classifications include depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Depressants are drugs that slow down a person’s central nervous system, examples include alcohol, barbiturates and tranquilizers. Stimulants are drugs that speed up a person’s central nervous system; they increase energy levels and examples include caffeine, amphetamines, nicotine and cocaine. Hallucinogens are drugs which distort reality and facts; hallucinogens affect all senses and make the user feel, hear or see things that don’t exist. Examples include lysergic acid diethylamide. Other classes of drugs are Narcotics, Inhalants etc.

Drug abuse is a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others including family; this can lead to drug dependency. Drug dependency or addiction is a complex disease that often occurs when drugs have been used repeatedly. This repeated use can lead to brain changes that challenge the user’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.

More often than not, some young people initiate drug use out of curiosity, some do out of peer pressure, and some others do because of the temporary benefits of the drugs. However, what many of these young people do not know is the long-lasting damage that can be caused by drug use. Drug abuse affects the physical and mental health of users; it can lead to addiction which can in turn cause strained relationships among family and friends, depletion of finances and educational challenges.

Parents and adults in general are encouraged to teach their children and wards life skills that can help them stay away from drug abuse and other vices. Some of these important life skills are motivation for personal goals, executive functioning skills, independent living skills and self-reliance, academic skills, physical fitness and health-promoting habits, emotional awareness, social skills, moral behaviour, integrity and character amongst other skills

As an organization that is committed to the positive development of the youth and the society as a whole, we prioritize and engage in preventive services and programs with a view to curbing the menace of substance abuse. At GMI, we are firm believers in the statement “prevention is better than cure”, as we have found out over time, that it is far better, easier and cheaper to prevent substance use and abuse than it is to treat and manage drug dependency and addiction. Prevention of substance use and dependency are in three stages; the primary, secondary and tertiary stages

  • Primary prevention of substance abuse: at this phase of prevention, the focus is on people considered to be vulnerable and at risk of engaging in substance abuse. These are the young children, adolescents, teenagers and young adults who have had no exposure to psychoactive substances but who have the probability of engaging in drug use if not properly guided and protected. The aim is to ensure that they never initiate contact with these harmful drugs.
  • Secondary Prevention of substance abuse: at this phase, the focus is on individuals who have initiated contact with drugs, but who are yet to form lasting habits of it. In this category of people, the damage caused by drug use is still minimal or negligible, therefore the aim is usually to prevent further use that would degenerate into dependency and cause lasting damage. This phase is simply discovering drug use before it becomes problematic.
  • Tertiary prevention of substance abuse: this is also referred to as the treatment and rehabilitation stage, this is because the drug-dependent individual is considered to be ill and unable to help himself/herself. The focus at this phase is to treat individuals who have become dependent on psychoactive substances, to see to it that they attain and maintain improved levels of functioning, ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society and also to monitor their recovery progress in order to ensure that they do not have a relapse or re-initiate substance use.

The substance abuse prevention cycle