Thursday, November 17, 2016

Can Addictions and Mental Illness Be Prevented?


I spent the afternoon at an Addiction Prevention seminar.  Several speakers shared the ways they are changing their thinking in regards to spearheading prevention, instead of putting all of their efforts at the treatment stage.  I believe with the mass sharing of knowledge and research we have to work with these days, we can identify certain precursors and early symptoms that can be dealt with in the early developmental stages of life.

Addiction is heavily a psychological issue that stems from either a genetic predisposition, a negative event or series of events we have experience, or it could be a nurtured behaviour.  Often addictions are things that are learned from family and friends early in our lives; other times they are in response to traumas or abuses suffered.   I am certainly not an expert in the field of addictions, but I do have a solid understanding of how they affect us, and where the roots of the problem come from.

Addiction was referred to as a 'brain disease' and it makes a lot of sense.  During addictions we train the brain to think of the problem as a natural occurrence, and the pathways in the brain solidify and change accordingly.  One statement I agreed with was 'all addiction is rooted in pain'.  This is so very true.  Whether it begins with mental or physical pain, the drug use begins with a response to some sort of negative stimuli.  Often the pain that causes it is hidden even to ourselves.

Addictions can mold a family in a very negative way.  If the problem is a natural way of life, it teaches the younger generation that it is 'normal', and often the behaviour is passed on.  Knowing the similarities and statistics creates a model for change.  Can addictions be prevented?  Much of it can be if the learning begins early in life.

By teaching children at a young age to make better choices, while also teaching why they are making the choices in the first place, we can input better life skills into our youth.  Don't just tell them that they have to do something or you will be met rebellious nature, explain to them why they should do something.  Prevention comes with a knowledgeable culture in our younger generation.

Two other statements that resonated with me were 'immaturity teaches immaturity', which is pretty much self explanatory, and 'if you didn't have a mental illness before the addiction, you will afterwards', which spoke to me on several levels of thought.  Statistics show that most addicts already had a mental illness before they began taking the substance.  Addictions lead to all kinds of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and psychosis, to name a few.

It is also proven that high percentage of all addictions begin between the ages of 12 and 25 years of age.  This makes complete sense because this is when young people begin using their critical thinking skills.  The problem is, if nobody is guiding those critical thinking skills, they can get out of control quite quickly.  By changing our thinking we can change the choices we make.

I have a bunch more information to share but I will do so later, in an effort to keep the articles short and readable.  I think the idea of preventing addictions before they happen is a wonderful concept.  It is my hope that counselors and mental health workers will be very cognitive of each human being's distress, and understand that in order to prevent the problem, they need to find the root of it.

We can't continue to put bandages on problems anymore.  Trying to prevent something before it happens is a huge undertaking, but I for one pray for their success.  Imagine if we could find ways to prevent all mental health issues before they take control of us.  That would be an amazing discovery.

Many of us may not be able to prevent our current issues, but we can use the knowledge we gain each day to understand them better.  We can certainly take steps to keep them from getting worse than they already are!  If you can't prevent you mental illness then work at it one symptom and one illness at a time.

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