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The principles listed below are the result of long-term research studies on the origins of drug abuse behaviors and the common elements of effective prevention programs. These principles were developed to help prevention practitioners use the results of prevention research to address drug use among children and adolescents in communities across the country. Parents, educators, and community leaders can use these principles to help guide their thinking, planning, selection, and delivery of drug abuse prevention programs at the community level.
Prevention programs are generally designed for use in a particular setting, such as at home, at school, or within the community, but can be adapted for use in several settings. In addition, programs are also designed with the intended audience in mind: for everyone in the population, for those at greater risk, and for those already involved with drugs or other problem behaviors. Some programs can be geared for more than one audience.
Principle 2 - Prevention programs should address all forms of drug abuse, alone or in combination, including the underage use of legal drugs (e.g., tobacco or alcohol); the use of illegal drugs (e.g., marijuana or heroin); and the inappropriate use of legally obtained substances (e.g., inhalants), prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs (Johnston et al. 2002).
Principle 3 - Prevention programs should address the type of drug abuse problem in the local community, target modifiable risk factors, and strengthen identified protective factors (Hawkins et al. 2002).
Principle 4 - Prevention programs should be tailored to address risks specific to population or audience characteristics, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, to improve program effectiveness (Oetting et al. 1997).
Principle 5 - Family-based prevention programs should enhance family bonding and relationships and include parenting skills; practice in developing, discussing, and enforcing family policies on substance abuse; and training in drug education and information (Ashery et al. 1998).
Family bonding is the bedrock of the relationship between parents and children. Bonding can be strengthened through skills training on parent supportiveness of children, parent-child communication, and parental involvement (Kosterman et al. 1997).
Principle 6 - Prevention programs can be designed to intervene as early as preschool to address risk factors for drug abuse, such as aggressive behavior, poor social skills, and academic difficulties (Webster-Stratton 1998; Webster-Stratton et al. 2001).
Principle 7 - Prevention programs for elementary school children should target improving academic and social-emotional learning to address risk factors for drug abuse, such as early aggression, academic failure, and school dropout. Education should focus on the following skills (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group 2002; Ialongo et al. 2001):
Principle 8 - Prevention programs for middle or junior high and high school students should increase academic and social competence with the following skills (Botvin et al. 1995; Scheier et al. 1999):
Principle 9 - Prevention programs aimed at general populations at key transition points, such as the transition to middle school, can produce beneficial effects even among high-risk families and children. Such interventions do not single out risk populations and, therefore, reduce labeling and promote bonding to school and community (Botvin et al. 1995; Dishion et al. 2002).
Principle 10 - Community prevention programs that combine two or more effective programs, such as family-based and school-based programs, can be more effective than a single program alone (Battistich et al. 1997).
Principle 11 - Community prevention programs reaching populations in multiple settings—for example, schools, clubs, faith-based organizations, and the media—are most effective when they present consistent, community-wide messages in each setting (Chou et al. 1998).
Principle 12 - When communities adapt programs to match their needs, community norms, or differing cultural requirements, they should retain core elements of the original research-based intervention (Spoth et al. 2002b), which include:
NIDA’s prevention research program addresses all stages of child development, a mix of audiences and settings, and the delivery of effective services at the community level. The Institute focuses on risks for drug abuse and other problem behaviors that occur throughout a child’s development. Prevention interventions designed and tested to address risks can help children at every step along their developmental path. Working more broadly with families, schools, and communities, scientists have found effective ways to help people gain the skills and approaches to stop problem behaviors before they occur. Research funded by NIDA and other Federal research organizations—such as the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—shows that early intervention can prevent many adolescent risk behaviors.
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