The smartest and most effective way to address drug misuse is to stop it before it starts. Decades of research on prevention strategies underscore two things:
First, there are risk factors that make it more likely that a person will misuse drugs. By addressing and reducing these risk factors, we can help prevent drug misuse. Risk factors can include:
- Availability of drugs. When drugs are readily available and accessible, there is a greater chance they will be misused.
- Early drug use. A child or adolescent who uses alcohol or misuses drugs is more likely to misuse drugs later in life.
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). A child who experiences certain adverse childhood experiences (known as ACEs) is more likely to misuse drugs over the course of their life.
Second, there are protective factors that make it less likely that a person will misuse drugs. By strengthening these protective factors in the lives of young people, we can help prevent drug misuse. Protective factors can include:
- Strong emotional bonds. A young person who forms strong emotional bonds with family members, teachers or faith communities is less likely to misuse drugs.
- Opportunities to get involved. A young person with opportunities to become involved with family, school or community activities is less likely to misuse drugs.
- Recognition for positive behavior. A young person who receives recognition for effort and accomplishment is less likely to misuse drugs.
Learn more from the SAMHSA website:
40 Developmental Assets Framework
Another highly-regarded, evidence-based approach to prevention is the “40 Developmental Assets” framework developed by the Search Institute. This framework consists of preventative measures, positive experiences and qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring and responsible. These assets are protective factors that have been consistently shown, through research, to buffer youth from risk. The more assets a child has, the higher probability that child will not be involved in substance misuse or other negative behaviors.