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Prevention – The Forgotten Pillar Of Addiction Treatment And Wellness

Written by: Nicole M. Augustine, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Prevention. It's one of the most important yet least talked about aspects of addiction treatment and wellness. We are a reactionary society that focuses most of our efforts on responding to illness through the strategy of treatment. As a result, we have become so busy providing treatment that we give little time and attention to strategies that will prevent or slow down the impact of addiction. It's like we've forgotten that addiction is a preventable medical condition to which we have a plethora of science allowing us to better understand the process of addiction. Or maybe the issue is that the prevention and addiction research community has not properly shared knowledge with the general public on the reality that addiction is preventable. So many of us still carry the old age narrative that addiction is a by-product of a weak will or lack of moral character.

A man's hand preventing the blocks from falling next to each other. .

I have been working in the field of prevention for over 20 years and have always gotten confused when I tell people I work in substance misuse prevention. The first thing people think is that I am a treatment provider, to which I usually have to explain what prevention is and that there is a field of work that attempts to reduce the likelihood of people transitioning into a state of needing treatment for a substance use disorder.

To be fair, prevention was a field that I had never heard of until I came across the concept in college. I was immediately drawn to a field of work that attempts to prevent something from happening. In a world where we are reactionary and place most of our resources into treating problems, I was intrigued by those who wanted to focus on creating environments that prevent the problems from occurring.

The impacts of addiction and the accumulated costs to the individual, the family, and the community are staggering. You really don't have to look very far to see the face of addiction. It's very likely that YOU know someone personally who has or is experiencing a substance use disorder. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 40.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 14.5%) had a substance use disorder in the past year, including 28.3 million with alcohol use disorder, 18.4 million with an illicit drug use disorder, and 6.5 million with both alcohol use disorder and an illicit drug use disorder. The Office of the Surgeon General estimates the annual economic impact of substance misuse to be $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use.

We must start investing in prevention if we want to make any real headway in the fight against addiction. Prevention has a major role to play in reducing the burden of addiction on our society. People may drink or use drugs to cope with the effects of poverty, discrimination, trauma, or for fun. Whatever the reason, it is the job of prevention to empower people in communities to understand the context of use and to develop the appropriate prevention of harm strategies. I’m a huge fan of prevention and have been in the field since the early 2000s.

Unfortunately, the prevention field is underfunded, and its practitioners are often undervalued. With more resources, we can reach more people with effective prevention strategies. We can improve the overall health and well-being of our society. Prevention is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to addiction treatment and wellness.

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Nicole M. Augustine, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nicole M. Augustine is a social entrepreneur, public health professional, and social justice advocate. She was born in Inglewood, CA, in the early 80s during the decade in America known for the "crack epidemic ." This was her first experience with social injustice, racial inequality, and the roots of trauma that plague many people. Her tale is one of resilience and opportunity, as her grandmother relocated the family to moved Edmond, OK, in the early 90s. After experiencing the stark contrast of both living environments, she became intrigued by the core reasons for differences in community outcomes. Nicole found herself studying sociology and public health and was drawn to understanding the root causes of health disparities. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Cornell University and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University School of Public Health. Throughout her career in public health, she has focused her work on understanding health disparities and social inequality. Her personal life mission is to drive community and societal change while creating generational shifts in community wellness outcomes.



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