Poverty and marginalization remain key drivers of drug addiction, says UN Office on Drugs and Crime


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Social and emotional skills are key to preventing substance use

Poverty and belonging to an underprivileged community are some of the main factors that make young people vulnerable to substance abuse and mental health problems.

Many addiction and mental health issues begin early in life, and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at greater risk.

— Maria Melchior (INSERM)

VIENNA, AUSTRIA, February 17, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — The World Day of Social Justice is celebrated on February 20 each year to recognize the need to promote social justice and to fight against poverty, exclusion and inequality. As widely recognized, social development and equality are key to achieving peace, the realization of universal human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it is also fundamental to achieving effective prevention of substance use. Overall, successful prevention aims to ensure the safe and healthy development of children and youth to reach their potential and become contributing members of society. Research has proven that poverty and belonging to an underprivileged community are among the main factors that make young people more vulnerable to substance abuse and mental health problems.

Maria Melchior is Director of Research at the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health at INSERM and the University of the Sorbonne in Paris and Advisor to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ( UNODC). She has researched social inequalities regarding drug addiction. She explains:

“We know that many problems in the area of ​​substance use and mental health start early in life and that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at greater risk. These issues also influence their education and longer-term socio-economic status, often Socio-economically disadvantaged families often face many challenges related to the experience of poverty: job instability or unemployment, insufficient income or fluctuating, increased risk of negative life experiences such as domestic violence or divorce, neighborhood violence, and all these difficulties. these are perpetual sources of stress that can prevent parents from having the right parenting skills and the ability to use them. drug use and psychological difficulties, which can influence how their children grow up.”

While poverty reduction should be a key priority of governments’ national drug prevention efforts, programs that focus on parenting, supporting families, and developing children’s social and emotional skills are also crucial.

“Research shows that children who have good life skills are less likely to use substances and generally have other areas of interest in which they can thrive,” says Maria Melchior.

To celebrate this year’s World Day of Social Justice, the UN agency and its drug use prevention arm have released a new video and educational material under “Listen First”, “Super Skills – The science of skills”. This project emphasizes the development of social and emotional skills in substance use prevention and targets primary school-aged children and those who work with them, including educators, health and prevention and decision makers.

In this series of entertaining 3D animated videos, a team of superheroes: ‘Helpful Handy’, ‘Likeable Listenup’, ‘Loyal Lookup’ and ‘Sensitive Smellup’ in the magic community Skilltown teaches children the essential skills of life such as goal setting, decision making, collaboration, motivation, compassion, empathy, curiosity and respect to name a few.

The latest film, “A Carrot for All,” gently deals with universal issues such as poverty and hunger and teaches compassion and empathy. Lookup and Listenup find a sad and hungry child. Immediately, our heroes offer to share their sandwiches. But there are even more children who need to eat. It is time for them – all – to act.

“This is not a standalone prevention tool, but rather can be incorporated into overall programs aimed at teaching children social and emotional skills. We created the videos to be fun and educational for children, but for viewing with parents, educators, or other adults,” explains Ms. Giovanna Campello, Chief of the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section of UNODC.

The material is available for educators, parents, teachers, policy makers, health workers, prevention workers and the general public.

“‘Listen First’ is great, and the videos are great. Prevention of substance use is key because it’s very hard to help people once they have addictive behaviors. Prevention is much more cost-effective and saves a lot of suffering. It is also difficult for many countries to implement, which is how “Listen First” can help. Dissemination of research results is essential. Many people still have great difficulty understanding the sources of substance use and what can be done to prevent it Parents can feel very helpless, and they don’t always have the right tools to connect with their children to protect them , so they are excellent tools,” concludes Maria Melchior.

To learn more about the link between inequality and substance use, read this interview with Maria Melchior.

“Listen First” materials are available in English, Spanish, French and more on the “Listen First” page website.

Organizations or Member States interested in translating or using “Listen First” are encouraged to get in touch.

Jenny Roston Lundstrom
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A carrot for all


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