Optimism Assists in Preventing Substance Use Disorder Vulnerability

Nature Bridge in Forest

Substance use can negatively impact someone’s life in really big ways. Finding ways to prevent substance abuse is important, especially since the number of teens who are using drugs continues to increase [1].

Researchers and healthcare professionals are always trying to find ways to prevent substance abuse and addiction. Recent studies show that someone’s attitude and outlook on life can influence how susceptible they are to substance use [2].

In the study, researchers found that teenagers who felt positively about their past, present, and future were less likely to use substances [2]. The study also showed that teens who viewed their life negatively were more likely to use and abuse drugs and alcohol [2].

The way teens view their life is also connected to how involved they are in school and motivated to achieve [2]. Teens who are motivated and engaged in school are less likely to start using substances [2].

Researchers found that there are ways to help teens develop positive outlooks on life [2]. These techniques can be helpful for parents, teachers, or mental health professionals. Here are three ideas for helping boost optimism to prevent substance abuse in teens:

Gratitude Practices

Man struggling with Substance UsePositive psychology research shows that gratitude is strongly linked with feeling happier and hopeful [3]. Gratitude is a way to pay attention to the good things in life. One way to practice gratitude is through a gratitude journal [2].

Spending a few minutes each day writing down things you are grateful for can help you focus more on the positive things in life. You can journal about things that are currently happening in your life or things from the past that you appreciate. Either way, gratitude can help someone feel more hopeful for the future [3].

A teen may be in the midst of substance use because they feel that their life is bad or that the future isn’t going to be good. So helping them to be able to notice and appreciate the good things in their life can help shift their mindset and feel more excited for the future [2].

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Treat Substance Use Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy approach that helps people feel better emotionally by changing the way they think. Sometimes people feel depressed or hopeless because of the way they are thinking about their life.

CBT therapists can help teens to pay closer attention to the way they are thinking so they can change negative thought patterns. If someone can think more positively and logically, then they may be less likely to use drugs or alcohol [2].

Positive Relationships with Parents and Teachers

One way to support teens is to have positive relationships with them. Students who have positive relationships with their teachers are more likely to feel engaged in school and motivated to go [2].

Similarly, adolescents who have parents that encourage open communication are less vulnerable to developing a substance use problem [2]. It can also be helpful for parents to have an optimistic attitude. Children, including teens, can be influenced by the way their parents respond to things. If you are optimistic about your child’s future, then it may help them to feel the same way.

There are a lot of substance use prevention strategies out there. Optimism is one thing that can help prevent teens from developing substance abuse problems.


[1] Uchitel, J., Hadland, S.E., Raman, S.R., McClellan, M.B., Wong, C.A. (2019, November 21). The opioid epidemic: A needed focus on adolescents and young adults. Health Affairs. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20191115.977344/full/

[2] Froiland, J.M, Worrell, F.C., Olenchak, F.R., & Kowalski, M.J. (2020): Positive and negative time attitudes, intrinsic motivation, behavioral engagement and substance use among urban adolescents. Addiction Research & Theory, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/16066359.2020.1857740

[3] Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 5). In praise of gratitude. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitude.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on April 14, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 14, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.