There are many steps that can be taken to safeguard those you care about from the harms of substance use.  Learn more about what you can do to keep loved ones and your community safe and healthy.  

Substance use is such big issue. What can I do?

Have your Eyes and Ears Open.  Everyone is at risk.

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of trouble with drug and alcohol use.  Every Mainer is at risk from the direct or secondhand effects of substance use.
  • Monitor and report your concerns.  It may be tough.  But, if you ignore an issue, it will only continue.  If you know of illegal activity, report it to the authorities immediately.
  • Reduce access to substances in your home including legal substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and medications.  Maintain inventory of everything and keep them locked up.
  • Speak with others who share your concerns about substance use issues.  Become involved in community prevention initiatives. 
How can I support young people to make good choices?

Children need protective factors.  These are the positive influences they grow up with to know their value and worth.  One of those positive forces is feeling like there are people in their life that care about them.  Another is time with positive role models who help them set and work towards goals- big or small.  Volunteer with a youth organization, become a mentor, and spend time with the younger people in your life.  Provide security, guidance, and support.  This strengthens a relationship and communication.  It also helps young people feel good, and gives them a break from possible pressures at home and at school.  For a more complete list of assets that help young people thrive, visit the Search Institute.  Role modeling is another critical component. Show them the same healthy habits you want them to develop.   Be armed with the latest information about drugs and alcohol, and speak with young people about the associated risks. Discuss with them how substance use could interfere with what is important to them and their goals.  Find information about speaking with youth of all ages.

Where can I find up to date information?

There are many sources of information including the media, web, and peers.  There are also many opinions that can make the information confusing and leave you misinformed.  You will want information that is up to date and based in research.  Look for sites that start with https.  Avoid sites that are making claims from one person’s point of view.  The most accurate information about drugs will come from sites that have considered research and many studies.  These studies will come from a variety of sources.  Information will be from experts in the field of substance abuse.  Recommendations include:

Local prevention providers will likely have information for you as well.

What would indicate a person could be at risk for substance use related issues?

Everyone is at risk.  There are certain factors that when present, increase a person’s chance for developing a substance use problem.  Being aware and paying special attention can reduce the likelihood.  

Family history is one critical element.  If a person has a parent, grandparent, or any other direct family member that has had alcohol or drug dependence, they have an increased biological risk.  

Another is a mental or behavioral disorder.  Not everyone with a mental health condition develops a problem.  But chances are higher because of difficulties regulating thoughts and emotions. 

Childhood trauma increases the chance of later substance use as well.  Impulsive and risk taking individuals are at increased risk due to their difficulty to resist a behavior.

How can I help a friend or family member who is using?

Let them know you are concerned about their behavior.  Listen in confidence if they choose to talk to you about their use, or problems. Remind them of all the positive things in their life, and risks substance use poses to maintaining the things they value.  Never offer substances as a way for them to cope and help them work through substance-free alternatives.  Be supportive by offering to help them find assistance and identify counseling and treatment services in the community using resources such as Maine 2-1-1.  Remain respectful and supportive if they choose not to speak to you about their use.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs offers more, information that may be helpful for you.