Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

kiss-520054_1920Is this young man at risk for substance use?  Could he become one of the 12 million people in the U.S. who are problem drinkers?

He’s 25 years-old. Comes from a divorced family. Parents had poor parenting skills and dad was verbally abusive. He’s dating a woman who binge drinks on weekends. He already has financial problems in his young life and hangs out with friends who drink. In high school, he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after a long custody battle surrounding his parents’ divorce. He began drinking with friends and often found himself intoxicated at high school parties. His social drinking continued after high school. He’s drinking as a way to cope with his life. So far, he sees little impact of his drinking, but has noticed he is drinking more and more. And he likes the fact that drinking takes the edge off of his anxiety and provides an escape.

Substance use often begins in the teen years with intoxication. Add the right risk factors,  a genetic predisposition to addiction, and you have the making of a problem drinker and substance abuser. Substance use involves a pathological pattern of behavior–the substance continues to be used despite significant substance-related problems (e.g., DUI, job loss, relationship problems, etc.). And in that use, the brain changes, leading to repeated relapses and drug cravings when exposed to drug related stimuli.

Our young man is ripe for the addiction picking. He had family problems including divorce, poor parenting, and verbal abuse. He is now in a social circle with a drinking girlfriend and friends who use alcohol as a way of escaping and stress reduction. He is using alcohol to medicate his anxiety and has a history of depression. And he is facing negative life events like financial problems. These are all risk factors for problem drinking.

How do we prevent our young man from becoming a problem drinker?

First, address his family issues and provide him with healthy coping skills to deal with how those issues are now presenting.

Second, build his resiliency to stress and assess his mental health for depression and anxiety.

Third, change his social environment. Both his peers and girlfriend drink. This makes it difficult to stop the pattern of drinking so perhaps he needs a different set of friends. If not, he will need to learn refusal skills and set himself apart from his growing reliance on drinking to medicate stress. This will not be easy if he continues to place himself in the company of those who regularly drink.

Fourth, talk to him about developing a spiritual life with faith in Christ. A church community would direct him on a spiritual path to help with stress and life issues. Other adults could support his sobriety and friendship needs and provide community. He would be surrounded by those who would teach resiliency through Scripture and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

With changes, he doesn’t have to go down the path of problem drinking.

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