Some people are more likely to use drugs than others, due to their surroundings, their friends, or their emotional state. Some are more prone to develop a drug addiction, due to their family history or another health issue at bay. On the other hand, some individuals are inherently less likely to use drugs, due to the neighborhood they grew up in or their constant engagement at school.
As a parent, you may be wondering: “What exactly makes one person more likely – or less likely – to use drugs than the other?” And, even more importantly, “Is my teen at risk?”
In a recent article, we discussed the various risk factors of addiction. Risk factors are variables that can increase a person’s risk for a given disorder—in this case, substance abuse. These risk factors (such as a history of trauma, a mental health disorder, or genetic makeup) can make a person more likely to get addicted to drugs. However, there are also certain factors that can make a person less vulnerable to the disease of addiction, and less likely to use drugs at all. These are called protective factors.
Protective factors are variables that help people handle stressful events more effectively, and mitigate the risk of potential negative outcomes (like addiction). These variables can be attributes in individuals, families, communities, or the greater society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, protective factors can be defined as “individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviors that reduce the effects of stressful life events. These factors also increase an individual’s ability to avoid risks or hazards, and promote social and emotional competence to thrive in all aspects of life.”
So, protective factors for addiction are variables that enable a person to avoid drug abuse or drug-using situations. These protective factors, in turn, reduce the risk of drug addiction and increase a person’s likelihood to thrive in various aspects of their lives, both in the present and the future.
What are the Protective Factors for Addiction?
Are you hoping to protect your teen against the dangers of drug abuse and addiction? Below are some of the most important protective factors to enact:
- Parental involvement
Studies show that parents have the biggest influence over whether or not their child will choose to use drugs. A lack of parental figure can be a risk factor for addiction. However, parental involvement can be a protective factor. Almost 56 percent of teenagers today believe the most common reason their peers stay away from drugs and alcohol is, in fact, their parents. By being involved in your teen’s day-to-day life, asking questions, encouraging open conversations, and monitoring his or her activities, you can help keep your child on a safe and healthy path.
- Good mental health
There is a direct correlation between mental health and addiction. Those who experience constant sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem are more likely to abuse drugs. However, teens who have a positive outlook and self-image, who can manage stressors effectively, are more likely to stay sober. As a parent, you can encourage good mental health in your teen by nurturing self-care, self-love, and positivity at home.
- Strong coping and problem-solving skills
Good coping skills allow teens to healthily overcome difficult problems or situations. For example, if a teen is experiencing high stress at school, he or she will know how to effectively work through that stress with rest, exercise, meditation, a conversation with a friend, or other healthy coping mechanisms. Problem-solving skills go hand-in-hand with coping skills. When a teen finds themselves in a difficult situation, they will know how to address it properly. Those who do not have good coping or problem-solving skills may reach for drugs or alcohol, unsure how else to get by.
A safe environment can help protect your teen against many dangers, including drug abuse. When a teen feels safe in their homes, their neighborhoods, and in social settings – both physically and psychologically – they will be less likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope.
- Stable relationships
Stable friendships or relationships with family can be a saving grace in recovery. These can also be a protective factor against addiction. When teens have positive, encouraging, and healthy relationships in their lives, they are more likely to feel supported and satisfied. They are more likely to engage with their friends and family, and less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol.
- Academic or extracurricular involvement
Engagement in hobbies, activities, and academics can be another protective factor for addiction. When a teen is engaged in school or sports, for example, and experiences achievement, they will also feel like they have more purpose. They will have something to work at, or work towards, and will have less “down time” to get involved with substance use. Try encouraging your teen to get involved with school, sports, a job, friends, religion, culture, or another passion area.
- Delayed substance abuse
Preventing drug use during the teen years is one of the greatest protective factors against addiction. This is because, during these years, the brain is still developing. When substances are introduced during adolescence, the risk of addiction increases substantially. Research shows that 90 percent of people with addictions started using drugs as teens. However, those who delay any substance use until adulthood – after their mid-twenties – are far less likely to experience long-term issues.
Protect Against These Risk Factors
In addition to ensuring the above, it is important to addressing any underlying risk factors that may make your child more vulnerable to substance abuse. The following risk factors can make a teen far more likely to use and abuse drugs. By knowing and tackling these out the gate, you can help protect your child against addiction. Does your child have…?
- A family history of drug addiction or alcoholism
- Potential mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and ADHD
- Experiences of abuse or trauma
- Problems with impulse control
- Issues with his/her environment, such as a low-income neighborhood or unstable home life
- Pressures, frustrations, and/or high stressors at school or work
- An established habit of using drugs, at a young age
Get Your Teen the Help that He or She Needs
As a parent or mentor, you have the power to protect your teen against drug abuse and addiction. By ensuring the protective factors above, and reducing the risk factors in your child’s life, you can help your child avoid many risky behaviors – from drug abuse to violence – as well as negative health effects. If your teen has already used drugs, you can still play a role in stopping it. Teens can significantly benefit from early intervention and treatment, and may go onto to live healthy, drug-free lives. Learn more about getting your loved one help by visiting us online here, or calling 877-581-1793.