Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Preventing initiation of drug use: What works

Community-based efforts to prevent substance use, like the work done by Prevention WINS, are an essential component of promoting health during adolescence and later life according to an article published in the most recent edition of JAMA – Pediatrics

The article discusses findings from a study conducted by the UW Social Development Research Group.  They looked at communities that used Communities That Care (CTC), a system similar to the Strategic Prevention Framework used by Prevention WINS.  During the study, coalitions of community stakeholders received training to use CTC.  They used data to identify elevated risk factors and depressed protective factors for adolescent problem behaviors in the community.  Like Prevention WINS, they implemented tested and effective programs for middle school youth, their families, and schools to address risks specific to their community.

The study showed that by spring of 12th grade, students in CTC communities were more likely than students in control communities to have abstained from any drug use, including alcohol and tobacco.  Using the CTC system continued to prevent the initiation of adolescent problem behaviors through 12th grade, 8 years after implementation of CTC and 3 years after study-provided resources ended.

The article goes on to note, The enduring effects of CTC through 12th grade were observed with little preventive programming targeting the high school years. Because CTC communities were asked to focus their prevention plans on programs for youths in grades 5 through 9, and continued to do so following study support, few students in the longitudinal panel were exposed to tested and effective programs beyond ninth grade. It is noteworthy that initiation of alcohol use, tobacco use, delinquency, and violence in the panel was prevented through 12th grade in CTC communities.

Targeting preventive interventions during middle school, a developmentally sensitive time for drug use and delinquency initiation, appears to have prevented the onset of alcohol and tobacco use . . . through high school. However, the present findings suggest that continued preventive interventions during high school may be needed to lower the current prevalence of substance use, delinquency, and violence among those who have initiated these behaviors. 

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