Adolescent substance abuse is one of our nation’s leading health problems today.  According to researchers, the average age of first-time alcohol abuse is 13 and about 9 out of 10 addictions begin in the teen years. Most teenagers who abuse drugs or alcohol obtain them from school friends. For that reason, prevention strategies for young people must focus on these factors.

To combat the problem, school-based drug abuse prevention programs are an effective strategy, but they don’t always work.  So, what more can be done to keep teens from experimenting with addictive substances?  Experts recommend helping teens find the natural high or spark that will help them lead successful and happy lives.

Adolescents Should Pursue Their Natural High

Helping teens find activities or hobbies that make them feel good about themselves is vital to preventing substance abuse.  Today’s teens spend far too much time on social media and internet activities that often cause low self-esteem or depression.  Many of these kids self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Researchers agree that getting kids involved in positive activities that inspire, uplift, and motivate them reduces the number of substance abuse rates.  In one study, alcohol abuse rates among teens fell from 43% to 6%.  These prevention strategies for young people are making a notable difference.

Healthy activities create alterations in brain chemistry that can reawaken a sense of well-being.  Hence, the natural high.  Having something to feel passionate about keeps teens from needing drugs or alcohol to enjoy life.  These kids are more likely to get involved with like-minded individuals.  Embracing positive peer influence helps them maintain a drug-free lifestyle.

Helping Teens Believe in Themselves

Teens today are faced with a barrage of negative influences that can damage their self-image and confidence.  With the mindset that nothing they do is good enough, they tend to stop trying.

Of course, the important thing for adolescents to learn is that nothing is easy.  Success requires commitment, persistence, and effort. If they believe they can truly achieve their goals, they are inspired to work harder.  Overall, utilizing prevention strategies for young people will help teens believe in their ability to accomplish their goals.

Learning to Set Goals and Take the Steps to Reach Them

During the adolescent years, the brain is still developing.  Specifically the area of the brain that controls judgment or decision-making.  For this reason, a youth’s chance of becoming addicted is 7 times more likely if they try drugs before age 21.  Without specific goals in mind, an adolescent develops a negative outlook in life. Learning goal-setting strategies is one more way of keeping teens on track and away from substance use.

Goals are critical in any stage of life.  However, teens are easily distracted and led astray if they have no idea where their life is headed.  They need to set goals, but be realistic about them.  If they aim too high, there’s a chance they will feel overwhelmed and give up.  Setting too many goals can also have an adverse impact.  However, if they set one goal and reach it, they’ll feel motivated to continue the pattern.

Here’s a guideline for teens to use when setting goals:

  • Identify the goal and write it down.
  • List all tasks or steps required to obtain the goal.
  • Begin working on the tasks or steps one at a time.
  • Make changes as needed when unexpected things arise.
  • Check off each task it is complete.

When a teen looks back at the progress they’ve made, the sense of accomplishment will encourage them to set another goal.

Do Prevention Strategies for Young People Work?

Reducing the risk of drug use in teens is dependent on resolving a variety of factors.  Many teens struggle with mental, emotional, and environmental issues that contribute to drug-seeking behavior.  Additional factors such as a family history of substance abuse, child abuse or neglect, death of a loved one, and financial problems also play a role in teen substance abuse.

Prevention strategies for young people seek to build self-esteem, instill confidence, and keep teens drug-free.  Do the strategies work?

Here’s what the National Institute on Drug Abuse has to say:

“Prevention programs are most effective when they employ interactive techniques, such as peer discussion groups and parent role-playing, that allow for active involvement in learning about drug abuse and reinforcing skills.”

More than 16 million people over the age of 12 took drugs for non-medical reasons last year. About 2 million of those were between the ages of 12 and 17.  Clearly, prevention strategies for young people must be a priority in America today.

If you know a teen who is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, contact us at New Beginnings today.  We can recommend a program that will get them back on the right track in life.


  • drugabuse.govPreventing Drug Misuse and Addiction: The Best Strategy
  • drugabuse.govPrinciples of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood