What factors can help prevent alcohol and other drug problems?

There is no single solution for preventing problems with alcohol and other drugs.. We have learned some important lessons, however, about what factors may help prevent a person from developing an alcohol or drug problem.

Economic, social and environmental factors

We know, for example, that a person’s income level, social status and health are all linked to their risk for problems with alcohol or drugs. A lack in any of these areas can cause stress and feelings of isolation, and depending upon a person’s ability to cope, can add to their risk. People are more likely to be healthier and to feel more control over their life if they have:

  • an education
  • a stable job
  • enough money for a healthy diet
  • a secure place to live

Governments and policy makers can help prevent alcohol and other drug problems. By putting supportive policies, programs and social services in place, they can help ensure that people’s basic needs are met, that they have the tools to care for themselves and that they have economic opportunities open to them.

Protective factors and healthy child development

What happens early in a person’s life can have a big impact on their risk for substance abuse or addiction, with positive experiences providing a kind of protection against them. Protective factors are factors that can help decrease a person’s chance of developing problems with alcohol or drugs and can boost their ability to cope well with stress and personal difficulties. These protective factors are especially important early in life, contributing to healthy child development. They include:

  • a supportive family environment
  • good parenting
  • positive role models
  • developing problem-solving and social skills
  • a sense of purpose in life and hope for the future
  • control over one’s life

Healthy families help produce healthy, resilient children, but there are community-based protective factors as well. For example, young people do better if they can take part in their community in a meaningful way and feel like they belong. Having access to relevant activities that they can afford also keeps young people engaged. Once again, good public policies, programs and social services can help nurture the protective factors that are so important to healthy child development.

Additional resources