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Addiction: Health Promotion

Alcohol and other drug abuse has become a root cause of many of the serious problems facing Canadians and is conservatively estimated to cost millions of dollars each year. The problem strains our health care, social service, education and legal systems, and takes an immeasurable emotional and financial toll on families. (Saskatchewan Health, 2004)

Substance abuse prevention programs have been successful in reducing substance abuse. However, making progress is not always easy. Many of the problems are intertwined with societal values, norms, attitudes, and beliefs that run counter to reducing problems and strengthening families and communities. Factors within our environment, such as employment and racism, also contribute. (Saskatchewan Health, 2004)

Risk and Protective Factors in relation to Substance Abuse and Addiction

Risk factors are life events that increase behaviours such as alcohol or other drug abuse, chemical dependency and problem gambling.

Protective factors are life events that decrease the exposure to risk factors. The end result is the reduced occurrence of  behaviours such as alcohol and other drug abuse, chemical dependency and problem gambling.

Studies have identified that risk factors and protective factors for substance abuse can be categorized under Individual Influences, Interpersonal Influences and Community/Societal Influences. When working with addiction promotion and prevention it is important to place a heightened emphasis on developing programs that improve protective factors, as well as working towards reducing risk factors.

 

Individual Influences:

Risk Factors

- Stress
- Social skill deficit
- Low self-esteem
- Mental illness
- Genetic factors
- Negative life events in child and adulthood

Protective Factors

- Life goals
- Problem solving social skills
- Resilience
- Emotion regulation skills
- Involvement in pro-social activities

Interpersonal Influences:

Risk Factors
- Family social isolation
- Easy access to alcohol and other drugs
- Family chaos, stress
- Peer drug use
- Positive attitudes towards use of substances
- Lack of social networks and supports

Protective Factors
- High, but achievable expectations
- Different networks of friendships
- Resilient families
- Supportive workplaces
- Supportive schools

Community/Societal Influences:

Risk Factors
- Exposure to drug selling or use
- Perception that everyone is using substances
- Lack of clear policy or Enforcement
- Lack of law enforcement
- Economic disadvantage

Protective Factor
- Lower perception of use in community
- Clear policies consistently enforced
- Laws enforced
- Caring communities and
nations that support their
members

(Prevention of Substance Abuse Problems, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2006)

In health promotion, we must look at root causes and the many factors that can influence a person’s use and abuse of substances. These factors are called Determinants of Health. By improving the determinants of health, we can all play a key role in decreasing a person’s use and abuse of substances.

Determinants of Health:

  • Income and Social Status
  • Social Support Networks
  • Education
  • Employment and Working Conditions
  • Social Environments
  • Physical Environments
  • Healthy Child Development
  • Health Services
  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Age