Learning to prevent alcohol abuse is important in order to be able to anticipate risky behavior that starts at an earlier age.
Risk behaviors are behaviors that, when shown, can have negative consequences on one’s own health or that of others or in society.
How to prevent Alcohol Abuse
In addition to alcohol abuse consumption, in the adolescent period there tends to be other risk behaviors such as antisocial and criminal behavior, risky sexual relations, or other joint addictions such as pathological gambling.
The existence of a correlation between alcohol abuse consumption and other risk behaviors, in particular, criminal behavior, is common.
If we think about children and adolescents, the probability of conducting risk behaviors depends, above all, on the results obtained or expected to obtain with this consumption.
The consumption of alcohol is not so much due to the lack of information that the consumers have, but rather to the positive consequences that causes them in the long term. With alcohol they can feel integrated in a social group, obtain certain physical or psychological effects…
The problem is that the positive consequences of alcohol consumption occur in the short term and negative in the long term.
Prevention of Risk behavior in Alcoholism
It is important to prevent alcohol consumption risk behaviors to avoid major problems.
The prevention of risk behaviors involves all those actions that aim to prevent a child or adolescent from conducting risky behaviors, or progressively increasing the frequency and / or intensity of consumption.
Characteristics that all preventive action must have
Many studies have been carried out to find out what factors a preventive action must have in order to have the desired effect.
According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drudge Abuse), in its Guide Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents, it outlines some of the characteristics necessary for a preventive program to be effective (NIDA: 2003). These are:
- They must be specific to each community, age, and period of development and culture.
- Community programs are most effective when accompanied by interventions in the family and at school.
- Family-oriented programs have more impact than those focused solely on the person in whom prevention is sought.
- They should include parents and guardians.
- It is important that the programs are interactive. The only information-focused ones are less effective than those that offer an interaction for learning and training in preventive skills.
- They should include all types of drug use, including those considered legal.
- The factors of protection should be emphasized and not as important as those of risk.
Advertising campaigns that are not accompanied by other actions have little impact on young people, as do moralizing or fear-based messages.
Prevention programs in which evaluation is performed are more effective and have longer lasting effects, as long as they are applied by people close to adolescents.
These people could be the educators themselves, since they will have continuous contact with the young people, and they have knowledge of each one of them.
Types of Prevention
Next, I’ll go on to explain the different types of alcoholism prevention.
Universal: this prevention is that addressed to the whole world, without any distinction (for example, boys and girls in adolescent age).
Stated: prevention directed to a specific subgroup of the community. They are usually individuals with high risk of consumption such as those with behavior problems, for example.
Selective: it is aimed at a subgroup of the target population that has a greater risk of consuming than the average of people of the same age. That is, a risk group such as a group at risk of social exclusion.
Strategies for the prevention of risk behaviors
Towards an Assertive Style
It is common for adolescents at risk of consumption to have difficulties in relation and communication with adults who have as reference. These difficulties come in large part by the use of an aggressive or passive style of communication.
For this reason, an essential objective in the prevention of the consumption is to be able to create an appropriate style of communication to be able to carry out the intervention. Thus, it will be established as an objective to achieve an assertive style in which to express what is desired of the other person in a direct, sincere and appropriate way, showing respect to the personal point of view.
The adequate thing is to inform and to train the adults of reference in different strategies facilitating this style of communication. Some of these strategies are:
- Choosing the Right Place and Time
- Search for emotional states facilitators
- Active listening
- Ask open or specific questions
- To empathize
- Statement of wishes and opinions with phrases like “I would like …”
- Mention of specific behaviors
- Request to appear with phrases like “what do you think we could do? What is your opinion on ?
The role of fathers, mothers and educators is paramount in decreasing unwanted behaviors and promoting appropriate behaviors. Their supervision and control helps young people learn the most adaptive and beneficial behavior in the long run.
To prevent unwanted behaviors from occurring, it is advisable to intervene before they occur. To this end, limits and norms will be established at the social, family and school levels.
Should inappropriate behavior have already occurred, we use punishment (response cost, time out, withdrawal of privileges, etc.) when the child leaves we carry them out.
In addition, reinforcers (social, material, motivational, etc.) will be used to encourage positive behaviors for the youth, which will help them to repeat such behavior.
Risk and protection factors
There are a number of situations of personal and social nature that predispose a person to consume alcohol or other drugs tolerance and, consequently, to develop a problem of consumption. These would be the so-called risk factors.
Some risk factors are low self-esteem, history of alcoholism or other addictions in a family, consumption or attitude favorable to consumption in friends, school failure or lack of social support.
Contrary to risk factors, there are a number of conditions that protect people from these situations, thus reducing the likelihood of a consumer problem.
These would be the protection factors, and favor the development of the individual towards a healthy lifestyle, cushioning or moderating, in turn, the risk factors.
Some of the protective factors are decision- making ability, family group cohesion, attachment to equal non-consumers, and attachment to school or community resources.
There are different prevention models that differ between them in the attribution that they make of the problem and in the preventive strategies that they propose. A preventive model will be more complete if done from a biopsychosocial approach.
This means that a prevention program must take into account biological factors (alcohol or other drug as a substance that produces effects at the neural level); psychological and social (we must not forget that much consumption is carried out by its integrating effect and socializing in a social network).
Next, I will explain the various prevention models that exist, the attribution that each of them make of the problem and the preventive strategies that they propose.
This model understands the problems derived from alcohol consumption as a disease, in which genetic factors or organic deficits are responsible for consumption.
They also put the substance as the cause of health problems. The preventive strategies proposed by this model are based on information on the harmful effects of alcohol.
In this case, the problem is attributed to the existence of an alcohol supply in the market. Prevention is based on a set of strategies aimed at controlling this supply, preventing or restricting the access of young people to drugs.
Responsibility, according to this model, lies in the individual and in his individual consciousness. They blame the individual for not being healthy and promote blaming messages.
It does not give importance to the role of the contexts in which adolescents find themselves and promotes prevention focused on the transmission of information.
It is based on an integrative, multicausal approach. It considers consumption as a phenomenon with many factors that include the substances themselves, the personal characteristics of the individual and the variables of their environment.
Competition Model and Harm Reduction Models
It is an action-oriented model, focused on resource development. The prevention of consumption will be to favor the development of personal and social resources that facilitate healthy behaviors and make risk behaviors less likely.
To conclude the article, I would like to emphasize the importance of starting to intervene long before the moment of conflict so that prevention is effective.
Actually, it would be appropriate to start prevention in the first educational moments since the birth of the individual. If an early educational model is established, we can avoid later problems at more advanced ages, or if they appear, they will be able to face with greater probability of success.