Role Models and Addiction Prevention

Role Models and Addiction PreventionAddiction occurs for a variety of reasons such as cultural norms, genetic predisposition, family structure and education about addiction. Another factor that can influence a person to use drugs is the presence of or lack of role models in a person’s life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), teenagers are most likely to be influenced by role models who use or don’t use substances. One such role model for teens is their parents. A report from ABC News stated that teens who hear about their parents’ experiences with drugs would deter them from using substances themselves.

Who Can Be a Role Model?

Parents are not the only ones who can serve as role models of sobriety and clean living. Clergy, coaches, family friends, teachers, scout leaders and even celebrities can show both adults and children alike the benefit and value of remaining free of drugs. In fact even recovering addicts can provide motivation and encouragement to stay away from drugs, and they can serve as role models to those in active recovery. According to an article in the Health Services Report, ex-addicts can relate to addicts and their problems. As someone who has “worked the program themselves” former addicts can provide incalculable value to a person either contemplating drug use or overcoming addiction. Groups like AA and NA are filled with ex-addicts who are willing to serve as role models to others that sobriety is possible and that everyone can recover. If the worst addict can recover and stay clean, anyone can.\

How Do Role Models Help?

People can learn from each other. This is evidenced even in infancy as a child learns how to smile and laugh by imitating the behavior of the adults around him or her. The same principle applies in other areas as well. If someone makes a mistake, another individual can learn from the mistake as well. You do not have to experience something first-hand to learn from it. For example seeing a professional athlete ruin his or her life because of drug addiction can teach a fan not to follow in that athlete’s footsteps. Thus role models can demonstrate with their actions the benefits or consequences of drug use or abstinence

Ways role models can help include the following:

  • Offering real-situation advice about living drug-free
  • Sharing their own story of addiction and recovery
  • Seeing through excuses that others might not recognize
  • Demonstrating a sober lifestyle
  • Living transparently and not covering up their own mistakes
  • Talking honestly about the consequences of their own addiction
  • Giving hope regarding a better future

Role models aren’t perfect. Role models even make mistakes, but their authenticity and honesty can provide needed guidance to those addicted to drugs. Even if a role model relapses, he or she can demonstrate that no one is immune to the influence of drugs. He or she can also demonstrate how to get back on the path of recovery after relapse by evaluating the treatment plan, getting help from sponsors and talking about the relapse.
How Do Role Models Hurt?

On the flip side, negative role models can influence people to use drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, parents or older family members who abuse drugs can increase a child’s risk of developing his or her own drug addiction later on. In addition the media is full of celebrities who act as negative role models flaunting drug and alcohol use as a wild ride of fun and danger that everyone else should envy.

Spending time with drug-using or even sober role models can challenge a person’s desire to keep on the path of recovery. These role models may make fun of people who enter recovery calling them weak, stupid, lame, or losers. Negative role models may encourage others to stay in their addictions so that they don’t have to confront their own struggles of addiction.

In addition negative thinking can take people down. People may bring up the past or tell an addict that he or she will relapse, that he or she will never recover, or that he or she is just trying to fool others. The influence of negative words and role models is especially powerful early in the recovery process when a person has not learned defenses for triggers that can cause him or her to use drugs. It is important to stay away from these negative role models.

Getting Help for Your Addiction

Perhaps you’ve lived under the negative influence of a poor role model, and you’ve become addicted to drugs. If so, you don’t have to live that way any more. We want to help. You can call our toll-free helpline anytime, 24 hours a day. You can talk with one of our admissions counselors about the best possible options for your unique situation. Determine to learn from positive role models who taught you the value of asking for help. Call us today, and start on the road to recovery.