Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

What are the Basic Prevention Strategies?

Prevention strategies targeting youth have evolved over the past 20 years as evaluation research reveals more about what works. Several strategies are used effectively, especially in combination:

Information Dissemination
This strategy provides awareness and knowledge of the nature and extent of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, abuse, and addiction and their effects on individuals, families, and communities, as well as information to increase perceptions of risk. It also provides knowledge and awareness of prevention policies, programs, and services. It helps set and reinforce norms (for example, underage drinking and drug dealers will not be tolerated in this neighborhood).

Prevention Education
This strategy aims to affect critical life and social skills, including decision making, refusal skills, critical analysis (for example, of media messages), and systematic and judgmental abilities.

This strategy provides for the participation of targeted populations in activities that exclude alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by youth. Constructive and healthy activities offset the attraction to, or otherwise meet the needs usually filled by, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.

Problem Identification and Referral
This strategy calls for identification, education, and counseling for those youth who have indulged in age-inappropriate use of tobacco products or alcohol, or who have indulged in the first use of illicit drugs. Activities under this strategy would include screening for tendencies toward substance abuse and referral for preventive treatment for curbing such tendencies.

Community-Based Process
This strategy aims to enhance the ability of the community to provide prevention and treatment services to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use disorders more effectively. Activities include organizing, planning, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of services implementation, interagency collaboration, coalition building, and networking. Building healthy communities encourages healthy lifestyle choices.

Environmental Approach
This strategy sets up or changes written and unwritten community standards, code, and attitudes–influencing incidence and prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use problems in the general population. Included are laws to restrict availability and access, price increases, and community-wide actions.

The Future by Design: A Community Framework for Preventing Alcohol and Other Drug Problems Through a Systems Approach (1991) BK189 Frequently Asked Questions about Preventing Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Problems (1993) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention