Ask PETRA About Prevention

In 2023, Health and Human Services estimated that 46.3 Americans aged 12 or up were living with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Prevention works, and it can come in many forms; there is no “earliest” age to start. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website has more information about SUD prevention.

Prevention starts the moment your child is born. There are many ways to incorporate prevention in the home, including forming connections, building independence, and maintaining communication. All are key to prevention and you can never start too late, or too soon.

According to the Addiction Policy Forum, 90% of Americans with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) began using substances before the age of 18. There are a variety of options when it comes to prevention programing in schools. Whether you’re a teacher or staff member, a parent or a volunteer, there is prevention information available for you.

The US spends an average of $740 Billion dollars annually because of Substance Use Disorder (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Everybody knows somebody and it does take a village. Find out what you can do to keep your community healthy and safe.

Prevention at Home

Parents and guardians can have a substantial influence over their kids’ decisions about using drugs and alcohol. In fact, over 80% of kids ages 10-18 say their parents are the biggest influence on their decision to drink or not drink alcohol (Addiction Policy Forum). Preventing them from initiating the first use and starting down the road to Substance Use Disorder (SUD) isn’t easy, but it’s critical. The earlier a kid experiments with drugs or alcohol, the greater their chances of developing an SUD in their future.

While some risk factors are unchangeable, such as genetics, there are many other ways adults can play a role in protecting their kids. Communication, setting clear expectations, getting them involved in extra-curricular activities, and building self-esteem are all protective factors that can significantly prevent substance use.

In fact, prevention can start before your child is born. During Pregnancy, almost every substance in the mother’s blood can pass to the baby. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is most often caused when a pregnant woman takes drugs called opioids.  It also can be caused by other substances such as antidepressants, barbiturates or benzodiazepines (sleeping pills), marijuana, alcohol, nicotine and even some herbal remedies. NAS happens when newborns are no longer exposed to the drug after birth, which can cause withdrawal symptoms. For more information, please visit our Warm4Women page here.

These resources below can help you with prevention in the home:

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Help Children and Teens Stay Drug Free
Partnership for Drug-free kids


Kids whose parents talk to them about the risks of drugs and alcohol are 50% less likely to use substances (Addiction Policy Forum). It’s important to talk early and talk often. While it may not be easy to talk about substance use and addiction, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Bringing it up in casual conversation where everyone can talk freely may be one way to make talking about it more comfortable. It’s important to remember that these conversations need to happen over time and will evolve as your child gets older.

Setting Clear Expectations

It’s important that kids know early on that you expect them not to use drugs or alcohol. Setting clear expectations of a zero-use policy and having them understand the consequences of doing so are key preventative measures. This again goes together with good communication and follows the same guidelines: discussing your expectations early and often.

Getting Them Involved

Kids who are busy, feel like they belong, and are involved in healthy social activities are less likely to start using substances at an early age. Discovering their interests whether it’s sports, arts, 4-H, etc., not only creates a connection between parent and child, but also give them a healthy outlet to learn about themselves, set goals, and want to achieve them.

Building Self-Esteem

Kids who feel confident in who they are become kids who are able to stand up to peer pressure. When parents treat their kids with respect, they learn to respect themselves. Listening to them and showing interest in what they’re doing leads to resiliency and increased self-esteem.

Prevention at School

Every school in northern NH has substance use prevention programming. If you are not aware of what your child’s school is doing, give them a call and ask. Many schools are also developing pages on their websites to directly address substance use. Programs such as YLTA (Youth Leadership Through Adventure) bring youth together to build their interests, goals and resilience.

Ask your kids what they are learning about regarding substance use prevention- encourage them to explain it to you, listen carefully, look for resources together, and learn together. By partnering with your child or teen, you create an environment that will support good decision making.

Contact AskPETRA to find out how to bring prevention programming to your school.