Preventing Substance Abuse
A Proposal

Gibbs A. Williams, Ph.D.

Despite a thirty five year war on drug abuse there is evidence that not only is the war far from being won; indeed, it is enlisting younger and younger recruits in ever increasing numbers. Statistically, sixty to sixty five percent of youths who have been jailed have been intimately connected with substance abuse. The age of onset is estimated to be as early as eleven years old. Once in the ''life'' the habit of substance abuse is exceedingly hard to break. Thus it makes sense to try and prevent potential abuse from happening in the first place.

Objectives Of This Proposal
In an accurate description of a problem lies an embedded solution. Assuming this statement to be valid, it then follows that the key to successful prevention is the identification of the underlying cause(s) of substance abuse. In my thirty years of professional experience associated with substance abuse my conclusion is that the central problem underlying substance abuse is the intolerance that the potential abuser has for experiencing psychic pain. This psychic pain is commonly referred to as so called negative feelings including: anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, confusion, weakness, helplessness, hopelessness, ambiguity, complexity, ambivalence, and not knowing. Common to all is an intolerance of frustration and a frustration about the inevitable experience of frustration. These attitudes render the potential abuser relatively ineffectual in facing , struggling, and mastering inevitable life problems. In this light, drugs and alcohol are used to obliterate the psychic pain associated with these 'unbearable' feelings.

The goal of this project is to provide the potential substance abuser with psychological tools (concepts) for learning how to effectively struggle with struggle potentially equipping him or her with a necessary self structure for successfully leading a balanced life. Thus this program aims at providing for each student the know how in the overly optimistic formula: Just Say No..

Project Activities


Appropriate time (yet to be specified) will be spent in meeting with administrators, counselors and teachers, to acquaint them with the theory and concepts associated with the workshop.


Workshops for adolescents will be given for approximately eight weeks during which they will be primarily focusing on their attitudes when facing unwanted disappointments. The emphasis will be on identifying the presence of negative feelings, attitudes towards these feelings, individual styles of coping or avoiding dealing with these feelings; the introduction of concepts to alter the view of these so called negative feelings from burdensome to challenging; and the introduction of concepts (tools) utilized as a means of effectively coping with these negative feelings .

3. To try to objectively measure the effectiveness of the project, each student will be asked to fill out a survey which indicates his or her attitudes towards frustration and the likes. Additionally they will be asked about their attitudes towards drugs and alcohol.

Gibbs A. Williams, Ph.D. © 1999-2000