Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood

Friday, March 11, 2016

With every year that passes, it seems like scientists understand better both the roots and nature of addiction. While the brain is an extremely complicated organ, one that will probably never fully be understood, we know now that the groundwork for addiction begins at a young – potentially even at prenatal stages of life. The brain is extremely impressionable when we are young, the things we are exposed to can have an impact on our ability to defend against threats later on in life, such as experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

“Infancy, toddlerhood, and the first years of school are hardly a time most people associate with drug use,” writes NIDA Director, Nora D. Volkow, M.D, in a blog post. “But aspects of family, school, and community environments during this crucial window of human development can set the stage for the social, emotional, behavioral and academic problems that, a decade or more later, may take the form of increased risk-taking and experimentation with substances like alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs.” 

It is probably safe to say that one of parents’ greatest fears is that their child will have the disease of addiction. The current state of things with the opioid epidemic has shown millions of Americans that their child is eligible for addiction, too. It cannot be overemphasized how important early prevention and intervention are, and they may be the dividing line between some teenagers using mind altering substances or not. This week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released evidence-based guides for practitioners and researchers: Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood.

“Thanks to more than three decades of research into what makes a young child able to cope with life’s inevitable stresses, we now have unique opportunities to intervene very early in life to prevent substance use disorders,” said Volkow. “We now know that early intervention can set the stage for more positive self-regulation as children prepare for their school years.” 

Part of the guidelines’ aim is to help people design and implement addiction interventions, including:

  • Educators
  • Policymakers
  • Treatment Professionals
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