It is my opinion that addiction is a Global emergency and should be given the attention we would give a Global epidemic. Some countries are obviously affected more than others but that can easily change without notice. Addictions such as substance abuse and misuse have a way of slowly and surely entering a society before becoming a mega problem.
In my last article, “The World of Addiction”I tried to list the withdrawal effects of commonly abused and misused substances with the hope that a prior knowledge of these effects will make people think twice before starting or continuing any of these substances regardless of the promised benefits.
Prevention, Prevention, Prevention.
Because addiction is so difficult to treat, it would be reasonable to solve the problem of addiction by preventing the onset in the first place. So how do we prevent people from starting or continuing the use of these substances? I am a very strong proponent of the use of public education to curb societal problems. Some ways we can start are listed below.
Add to school curriculum
Create short classes or courses teaching the simple process of substance abuse and misuse and how to avoid being unknowingly initiated. These short classes or courses can be adapted for Elementary, High (secondary) and Tertiary (University, College, Polytechnic) school curricula.
Get the entertainment industry involved
We all know how much influence Disney, Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood and other such entertainment industries have on the general society either directly or indirectly. A lot of addictions start at an early age so the entertainment industry can help by producing best sellers targeting different ages with a message of prevention and treatment.
Talk about it
I know it is sometimes difficult to start a serious discussion with a teenager especially since we are usually operating on totally different levels. Sometimes I have found that casually asking open-ended questions on seemingly simple topics brings out a desire for my children to discuss their point of view on that topic.
Sometimes I have to try very hard not to butt in with my own ideas before they have concluded with their own view of the topic. The good thing is that it lets me know where they stand in relation to that topic and then I can carefully articulate my opinion which I usually say “might be right or wrong but is my opinion”. This I believe plants a seed of an alternative view or solution to a problem.
Even if you are not an expert, you can still just listen and think about the answers you hear from them. Sometimes it helps you hear what challenges or fears your child is facing on a daily basis. I have heard the saying that “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
So what about those already addicted? Addiction is very complicated and difficult to treat. The treatment of substance abuse or misuse depends on the substance or substances the individual is addicted to. The user and the user’s environmental variables are also important in the treatment process. This means that treatment of substance abuse and misuse is best handled by specialist who can assess the whole picture.
These specialists may use either pharmacological (use of medications) or behavioral (counseling) interventions. In many cases, both types of interventions are used.
As I mentioned earlier, addiction is very complicated and difficult to treat and therefore prevention is a very important Global strategy in solving the problem. Once an individual is addicted or “hooked” there is little or nothing that individual can do to help himself or herself. Support from the family and friends is crucial and must not be overlooked.
Some of you have influence in your communities and this is a call to action to begin to agitate for more active public education on this issue. We do not have to wait till it affects a loved one before we begin to take this epidemic seriously.