Hesperian Health Guides
Preventing Drug and Alcohol Misuse
To prevent drug and alcohol misuse successfully, you must consider the social forces that contribute to drug use.
Try meeting with others to discuss why alcohol or drugs have become important in community life. How did the problem start? What makes people use more? Are there new pressures on men or women that make it harder for them to control their use of alcohol and drugs? How can the drugs or alcohol be made less important in your community?
Once you understand the reasons for the problem, your group might want to work on ways to reduce social pressures to drink or use drugs.
A group of men and women in Chiapas, Mexico organized against alcoholism as part of their movement for democracy and social justice. They realized that people who drink heavily sometimes impose their will on others, in the same way as the police had used force to control the community. The group gave warnings to individuals whose misuse of alcohol was hurting other people, and intervened in cases where drunk men abused their wives. Alcohol played both negative and positive roles in the community. Shamans often drink rum, a sacred symbol, as part of their healing rituals. The group found ways to combat alcoholism and keep the spirit of their tradition by substituting non-alcoholic drinks in these rituals.
Helping young people resist alcohol and drugs
Many people who have drug and alcohol problems as adults began using them when they were young. Drugs or alcohol can seem like an easy way to have fun or escape from problems, especially if others are using them. Young people often feel confused and powerless about the many changes they must cope with—their growing bodies and new responsibilities. Young people are also influenced by many pressures, especially their friends, older people they admire, and advertising.
One way to reduce drug and alcohol misuse is to help young people learn to resist harmful pressures. Here are some ideas that have worked in many communities:
|Find popular role models who speak out against drugs. Your children may find the message more powerful if it comes from a person they admire.|
- Encourage the schools in your community to teach young people about the problems of using drugs and alcohol.
- Make it harder for people to sell drugs to young people.
- Organize to remove advertisements that make cigarettes and alcohol look glamorous and modern.
- Become a good role model. If you drink a lot or use drugs, chances are your children will too.
- Teach your own children about the problems drug and alcohol use can cause. They can then influence their friends.
- Help young people have fun without drugs and alcohol.
- Help your children develop skills and self-esteem to resist the social pressure to use drugs and alcohol.