A lot of people can use alcohol and even illicit drugs recreationally and never develop dependency issues. What makes those people difference from the rest of us who are susceptible to abuse remains obscured, and it’s believed that genetics, personality and environmental factors all interact to complete the picture. We’ll never get people to stop indulging, but if we can minimize the danger to those of us at risk to develop substance abuse issues, we could prevent a lot of heartache.
None of us like to get involved into the business of others, and although we may have concerns about associates or coworkers and their level of substance use, we rarely initiate any action until that abuse has become so obvious and so severe that a response becomes required. Unfortunately, by the time any action is taken the level of abuse and dependency has grown enormously, and the difficulty of enacting positive change greatly increased.
Research has shown that a brief intervention with a professional in people demonstrating substance abuse behaviors, but that do not yet display dependency, can have a great impact on drug and alcohol consumption. For many, all that is needed are one or two 20 minute professional consultations with an addictions professional or doctor to influence change, and this surely better than an intensive and expensive rehabilitation treatment months or years down the road.
The problem isn’t that we don’t know what works; the problem is finding a way to implement policies that would allow for these interventions to occur. The intervention seems to work best when done by a professional, although family and friends can also influence change. A quick intervention will never save all proceeding down the road to addiction, but if even a fraction can be helped, the benefits of such as small and easily accomplished intervention become pronounced.
At the Doctor’s Office
Medical professionals need to be on the lookout for signs of substance abuse, and ready to intervene when this abuse seems probable. Schools need better early intervention systems, and intervention may need to go to the at risk user, instead of waiting for that person to request assistance; and employers should be aware of the signs of substance abuse behaviors, and offer non confrontational interventions to the benefit of both the company and the individual.
Recognizing the benefit of early interventions in substance abuse, medical schools have started offering prospective doctors training on how best to diagnosis substance use before it progresses to dependency, and training medical personal how to enact behavioral change through brief interventions at an early stage of abuse. Although none of us want to be nosy or intrude on the personal and private life of another, maybe we need to do more to encourage early interventions within our institutions and workplaces, and to make sure that those with the power to intervene are aware of those who might be at risk for substance abuse and addiction.
When treating an addiction, earlier is always better than later, and best of all is engaging in treatment as a preventative measure to those displaying at risk behaviors.