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Have you ever wondered what makes a person turn to drugs and alcohol? Or why it is easier for certain people to say no to drugs than others? Research indicates that there certain risk factors that can increase a person’s chances for drug and alcohol abuse, and protective factors, that can reduce the risk. The presence or absence of protective and risk factors can make an individual vulnerable, or resilient, to substance abuse problems.

What are the different types of risk and protective factors?

Each individual person is part of a larger social circle. They exist as part of a family, part of a community and as part of society. Each of these three settings contains a variety of different risk and protective factors.





What does this mean?

For those working in substance abuse prevention it is important to look at each of these settings when considering prevention techniques.  Targeting just one of the settings above will likely prove to be ineffective. For example, having strong policies in society limiting access to drugs and alcohol will most likely not have a large impact in a community where parents feel that underage drinking is a rite of passage.  It would most likely be more successfully if you attempt an approach that combines protective factors in the family setting, the community setting and the society setting.

Timing is important

When addressing risk and protective factors timing is extremely critical. Research has shown that people have a higher risk of turning to drugs and alcohols during key transition periods in their lives, such as transitioning from middle school to high school, or when they move away from home for the first time. During these times it is important to provide strong protective factors to youth; by providing these protective factors, and also decreasing risk factors, we are more likely to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol, and to promote a safe and healthy lifestyle.



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