What is Substance Abuse Prevention?

Prevention is:

  • The promotion of constructive lifestyles and norms that discourage drug use
  • Development of social environments that facilitate drug-free lifestyles
  • A dynamic process that must relate to and continue through every emerging generation

Substance Abuse Prevention Works!

Data from the past 20 years show that prevention has succeeded in substantially reducing the incidence and prevalence of illicit drug use. Successful substance abuse prevention also leads to reductions in traffic fatalities, violence, unwanted pregnancy, child abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, injuries, cancer, heart disease and lost productivity.

Substance Abuse Prevention can be shown to be effective. In 1979, 25 million Americans used an illegal drug during the preceding month. (SAMHSA National Household Survey)

In 1995, 12.8 million Americans used an illegal drug in the past month, a decrease of nearly 50 percent.

In the 1980s, complete abstinence from drugs was claimed by fewer than one in thirteen high-school seniors. (NIDA–Monitoring the Future Survey)

In 1995 nearly one out of five seniors reported complete abstinence, an increase of nearly 250 percent.

Examples of Prevention Findings from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) National Cross-Site Evaluations, CSAP Grantee Evaluations, and Other Programs:

Finding: Prevention programs can encourage change in youth behavior patterns which are indicative of eventual substance abuse.

  • Cornell University researchers in a study of 6,000 students in NY State found that the odds of drinking, smoking, and using marijuana were 40% lower among students who participated in a school-based substance abuse program in grades 7-9 than among their counterparts who did not.
  • Forty-two schools in Kansas City, MO reported less student use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana than control sites as a result of Project Star, a prevention program.
  • In Nashville, the proportion of students who achieved perfect attendance for 20-day attendance periods increased from 27% to 60% as a result of a CSAP-funded community partnership school incentive prevention program.

Finding: Substance abuse prevention programs can improve parenting skills and family relationships.

  • A CSAP-funded study at CO State University found significant and enduring enhancement of successful parenting skills including: increased parental satisfaction, decreased harsh punishments for children, increased positive attitudes towards parenting, and increased appropriate control techniques.

Finding: Drug abuse prevention programs are effective in changing individual characteristics which are predictive of later substance abuse.

  • In Oakland, CA and other sites across the country, the Child Development Project found significant decreases in incidents of weapons possession and gang fighting among program participants in comparison to control groups.

Finding: Substance abuse prevention programs reduce delinquent behaviors among youth which are frequently associated with substance abuse and drug-related crime.

  • The Mexican-American Unity Council found significantly fewer conduct problems, less hyperactive behavior, and reduced passivity among children participating in a CSAP-funded prevention program. A similar study in Denver, CO replicated these results.
  • The Safe Streets Prevention Partnership in Tacoma, WA has been instrumental in closing 600 drug selling locations since 1990 and in reducing crime by more than 40%.
  • The Miami Coalition Community Partnership program has spurred Dade County community officials to demolish more than 2000 crack houses. Crime in the area has been reduced 24% and annual drug use has decreased by more than 40%.

Finding. The transmission of generic life skills is associated with short-term reductions in substance abuse among adolescents.

  • In DE, the Diamond Deliveries program which targets pregnant adolescent alcohol and drug users resulted in a 60% lower incidence of low-birth-weight babies and significantly lower neonatal costs than a matched control group.
  • CSAP’s High Risk Youth projects confirm that prevention efforts incorporating “life skills” such as problem-solving, decision-making, resistance against adverse peer influences, and social and communication skills are associated with reduced incidence of substance abuse among adolescents.

Why Do People Use Alcohol/Drugs?

  • Curiosity
  • Belief that drugs improve physical and mental performance
  • Belief that drugs are not harmful
  • Depression
  • As a coping mechanism for traumatic experiences, e.g., childhood sexual abuse, school failure, etc.
  • Sensation-seeking behavior
  • Substance use by family members
  • Peer pressure
  • Community norms
  • Exposure to pro-use message in mass media
  • Access and availability