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Steps to Help Prevent a Developing Substance Use Disorder

1. Understand How Substance Use Disorders Develop. Substance Use Disorders start by:

  • Using addictive drugs (illicit or prescribed) for recreational purposes.

  • Abusing an addictive prescription medication.

  • Seeking out intoxication every time you use.


2. If You Have a Substance Use Disorder, Get Help Now. Substance Use Disorders are defined differently. A person who uses heavily and then can abruptly stop is considered to be abusing alcohol or drugs. But addiction occurs when the body requires the alcohol or drugs to stop withdrawal symptoms.


3. Avoid Temptations and Peer Pressure. You may have heard the expression, “You’re only as good as the company you keep,” and in reality, that statement is true. If you have friends or family members who pressure you to use alcohol or drugs, avoid them. Make new friends who practice healthier habits, who do well in school, who are motivated at work and who have goals.


4. Find the Support You Need. People struggling with emotional distress are at greater risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol if they have not developed healthy coping skills. If you have experiences in your past that negatively affect your feelings, find a reliable and healthy source of support. If you have depression, anxiety, paranoia or other mental health problems, counseling or therapy and social communities such as religious or spiritual organizations can help you work through negative emotions and behaviors in a healthy, life-affirming manner.


5. Practice Healthier Living Habits. Exercise, eating well and meditation are excellent ways to avoid using drugs or alcohol. Often, the results you feel from living a healthier lifestyle can help you avoid the temptation to use drugs or alcohol to escape. A healthy body helps you cope with daily stress.

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How do I know if I have a substance use disorder?

If you can't stop taking a drug even if you want to, or if the urge to use drugs is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm, you might be addicted.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:


  • Do you think about drugs a lot?

  • Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn't?

  • Have you ever thought you couldn't fit in or have a good time without the use of drugs?

  • Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry at other people?

  • Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?

  • Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another?

  • Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs?

  • Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you?

  • Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?

  • Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use?

  • Have you ever overdosed on drugs?

  • Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people?


If the answer to some or all of these questions is yes, you might have a substance use disorder.