ADAPT has jointly released an evidence brief that brings attention to effective substance use prevention strategies for youth. Titled Strategies for Preventing Opioid Use Disorders in Communities, the brief shares components of an approach to substance use prevention that includes preventing initiation of use, early identification and intervention, and development of a community-based infrastructure to support delivery of preventive interventions. Developed in partnership with the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, Applied Prevention Science International, Inc., and the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, the brief spotlights the need to shift upstream in order to address the ongoing national opioid crisis.
While the majority of adolescents engage in substance use, typically nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and/or cannabis, they do not go on to develop a substance use disorder. However, public health experts have raised concerns about the detrimental impact of substance use on the developing brain. Over time, the impact of substance use on youth can lead to significant and lasting impacts in areas of academic, social, mental, and physical health. These problems include academic failure, antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, and increased risk for traumatic stress. The brief’s authors stress that the three most important environments affecting adolescent development are 1) families, 2) schools, and 3) neighborhoods, all of which offer opportunities for intervention.
ADAPT and its colleagues promote upstream preventive interventions and strategies that are supported by the best available research evidence. They emphasize the value of substance use prevention programs that prevent or delay initiation of use and offer examples of proven programs. Additional emphasis is placed on implementation of early identification and intervention strategies as one of the most effective prevention approaches, as it averts problems from occurring or resolves them before they exacerbate. This approach works by identifying and providing early support and programs to children and adolescents who are at risk of a variety of poor outcomes that tend to be related to one another (e.g., substance misuse, delinquency, school drop-out, depression, and other behavioral problems).
Tested programs shown to prevent teens from developing SUDs work within families, schools, and neighborhoods to:
- Strengthen cognitive control over emotional and impulsive reactions;
- Foster healthy relationships;
- Teach effective ways of managing stress, reduce traumatic experiences; and
- Provide nurturing settings for healthy development.
If implemented properly, research-based prevention strategies can yield significantly high return on investment, which is a far greater benefit to individuals and to taxpayers than waiting until serious substance use problems develop to react, at which point the solutions are much more difficult and costly to implement.
The brief also provides guidance on how a community-level infrastructure could be developed to more comprehensively advance prevention strategies. To read more about the recommendations, strategies, and additional resources mentioned in the brief, click HERE.