The Prevention Hub website recently posted a review of research about the effectiveness of substance abuse prevention programs. The two main findings were that multiple prevention programs implemented simultaneously are most effective and that prevention needs to start early. Here’s an excerpt from the report:
On the evidence to date, the most promising interventions for reducing several risk behaviours simultaneously are those which address multiple domains of risk and protective factors, perhaps because they match the multi-faceted nature of the causes of risk behaviour. Such interventions largely aim to bolster young people's resilience, supported by promoting positive parental/family influences and/or healthy school environments which foster positive social and emotional development.
Timing is likely to be very important, particularly in relation to periods of transition in young people's lives. Programmes were commonly implemented at ages 11–12, during transition into adolescence, or at ages 13–14, when risk behaviours, or experimentation with them, may already have started. The Seattle Social Development Project was the only identified programme implemented in the pre-adolescent early years of primary school. Its success, especially in reducing sexual risk behaviour, suggests that intervening in early mid-childhood can have an impact on later risk behaviour. It may not be too late to intervene during teenage years, but addressing underlying determinants of risk behaviour early in childhood may have a greater impact than only intervening in adolescence.