Prevention continues to provide hope for most when thinking of ways to reduce drug use and abuse in society.

Unfortunately, as an inexpensive and accessible policy tool, prevention alone seems to have yielded modest outcomes. While educational programs like DARE, instituted under President Reagan, appeared to result in a decline in selected drug use, a study from the University of Kentucky from the early 1990s asserted there was little effect on drug use for Kentucky schoolchildren who participated in the program. Studies in Minnesota and North Carolina reached similar conclusions.

Another study funded by the ONDCP found that government campaigns that spent over a $1 billion from 1998 through 2004 to dissuade teens from smoking marijuana had virtually no effect on drug use. In fact, more exposure led to softer attitudes toward marijuana and the misperception of greater use by their peers. Consequently, despite the continued optimism expressed by the majority of parents, drug policy experts advocate against spending major resources on such programs due to their ineffectiveness.

Given that most drug use especially that which leads to addiction begins during adolescence, families can play an influential role in prevention. The most effective protective measures are encouraging success in school, a good set of friends, communicating the disapproval of drug use and creating a stable home environment, including a healthy relationship with parents. Conversely, research shows that youth prone to drug use tend to come more from single parent homes and have a parent, sibling or group of friends who use drugs.

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Posted by Anaïs Faure