Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Prevention Research Principles for Children and Adolescents

  • Prevention programs should be designed to enhance “protective factors” and move toward reversing or reducing known “risk factors.”
  • Prevention programs should target all forms of drug abuse, including the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants.
  • Prevention programs should include skills to resist drugs when offered, strengthen personal commitments against drug use, and increase social competency (e.g., in communications, peer relationships, self efficacy, and assertiveness), in conjunction with reinforcement of attitudes against drug use.
  • Prevention programs for adolescents should include interactive methods, such as peer discussion groups, rather than didactic teaching techniques alone.
  • Prevention programs should include a parents’ or caregivers’ component that reinforces what the children are learning — such as facts about drugs and their harmful effects — and that opens opportunities for family discussions about use of legal and illegal substances and family policies and their use.
  • Prevention programs should be long-term, over the school career with repeat interventions to reinforce the original prevention goals. For example, school-based efforts directed at elementary and middle school students should include booster sessions to help with critical transitions from middle to high school.
  • Family-focused prevention efforts have a greater impact than strategies that focus on parents only or children only.
  • Community programs that include media campaigns and policy changes, such as new regulations that
    restrict access to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, are more effective when they are accompanied by school and family interventions.
  • Community programs need to strengthen norms against drug use in all drug abuse prevention settings, including the family, the school, and the community.
  • Schools offer opportunities to reach all populations and also serve as important settings for specific subpopulations at risk for drug abuse, such as children with behavior problems or learning disabilities and those who are potential dropouts.
  • Prevention programming should be adapted to address the specific nature of the drug abuse problem in the local community.
  • The higher the level of risk of the target population, the more intensive the prevention effort must be and the earlier it must begin.
  • Prevention programs should be age-specific, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive.
  • Effective prevention programs are cost-effective. For every dollar spent on drug use prevention, communities can save 4 to 5 dollars in costs for drug abuse treatment and counseling.

Source: Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents A Research Based Guide, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health