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COMMUNITY BASED DRUG PREVENTION
Community based drug prevention requires various stakeholders - including schools and families - to join forces in trying to reduce the abuse of drugs and alcohol within the community.
But how does community based drug prevention work? What does it require? Who is involved? All these are essential questions that you need to answer while trying to fight the drug and alcohol menace that has been claiming lives, livelihoods, and limbs.
UNDERSTANDING COMMUNITY BASED DRUG PREVENTION
Community-based drug prevention is designed to address the failure of single system and single strategy effects in reducing and eliminating the use and abuse of intoxicating and mind-altering substances. Through such prevention, therefore, different stakeholders in the community can address all the variables that underlie and correlate to the problematic behavior of chronic substance abuse in communities.
Every type of drug prevention program - including those implemented by the media, families, schools, and communities - tend to be more effective when they are tailored to meet local circumstances and conditions. These programs should also be culturally adapted as is appropriate for each community.
Additionally, community-based drug prevention works when it is focused on decreasing or eliminating the risk factors of substance abuse while simultaneously increasing protective factors.
To this end, one of the core objectives of community-based drug abuse and addiction prevention involves thoroughly mapping all external factors at the local level and in great detail. Mapping exercises, on the other hand, should include every actor in relevant sectors and domains - who can later expect to be involved in planning and executing the prevention programs.
Last but not least, community-based drug prevention should also include different interventions and efforts in a variety of domains. This means that it should involve criminal justice entities, law enforcement officials, schools, families, the youth, individuals, peers, and communities at large.
The most successful community based drug prevention programs tend to be developed locally. These efforts also involve different sectors in the community - each of which contributes to building effective and comprehensive prevention coalitions.
By so doing, these sectors and entities address community-wide problems surrounding substance abuse. They also mobilize coalitions of businesses, health care providers, fraternal and religious organizations, law enforcement institutions, educational institutions, parents, and the youth - working hand in hand with government entities.
Community-based drug prevention should also be designed with the primary goal of interrupting and addressing intergenerational cycles of poverty, violence, and substance abuse and addiction.
In particular, they also encompass family-based drug prevention and treatment programs designed to keep families together, support their wellbeing and stability, and improve parenting skills.
This means that such drug prevention must be part of other more substantial efforts involving different sectors within the community - including but not limited to those aimed at eliminating poverty and preventing violence at the community level, among other efforts to reduce and eliminate drug abuse.
However, just because community-based drug prevention are provided at the local level, it does not necessarily mean that they should preclude other national campaigns. To this end, medical campaigns against drugs and alcohol should be tailored to meet and address local circumstances.
This means that internet sites, television programs, publications, and other forums commonly used by the public - in general - and the youth - in particular - should supplement and reinforce programs and policies for preventing substance use while raising public awareness about the dangers and problems attached to such drug use.
COMMUNITY BASED DRUG PREVENTION SERVICES
Even with so many community-based drug prevention programs in place, most people know the devastating effects and consequences arising from problematic drug and alcohol abuse as well as the potential that comes with effective prevention programs.
Still, community-based drug prevention programs are still committed to helping families and individuals live in communities where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential - and overcome the dangers presented by drugs and alcohol.
Most of these programs, therefore, work with communities to build on existing strengths and capabilities while trying to achieve the goal of a healthy and drug-free community. Additionally, they use evidence-based curricula that are recognized nationally for prevention drug and alcohol abuse in community settings and schools - to ensure that everyone can attain their full potential.
These curricula also strive to teach participants how to make more informed decisions relating to drug use while building skills they can use to prevent themselves from abusing these intoxicating and mind-altering substances.
In particular, community-based drug prevention programming provides a variety of services, including:
- Violence prevention programs
- Community coalitions
- Communication campaigns
- Classroom-based programs
- After school programs
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN DRUG PREVENTION
But how can communities plan, implement, and sustain successful drug prevention programs? After choosing a prevention plan, communities should start implementing all related programs to meet local needs.
In many US communities, various stakeholders form coalitions during the planning and implementation process. They also remain highly involved in drug use oversight to ensure a systemic reducing in such use within the community. However, the responsibility of running with the individual programs will usually remain with private and public community-based businesses and organizations.
That said, ensuring that research and evidence-based community-based drug prevention program is successful will often require the application of significant financial and human resources. Program implementers must also be seriously committed to providing technical assistance and training to participants.
There must also be outreach efforts designed to attract program participants and keep them involved and interested - mainly where such participants are from populations that have traditionally been hard to reach.
Recent research studies now show that any extra effort made through community based drug prevention - such as providing personal contact, flexible schedules, incentives, and public support to various leaders and influencers in the community can effectively continue attracting and retaining more participants in such programs.
ADDRESSING PROTECTIVE AND RISK FACTORS
Effective community-based drug prevention programs must focus their primary efforts at the various risk and protective factors influencing and reducing drug and alcohol use in communities, schools, and families.
These programs also come with the goal of building new protective factors (while strengthening existing ones) as well as reducing and reversing risk factors - particularly among populations that are historically linked to a high incidence of substance abuse and addiction.
In the same way, community drug prevention should also be designed in such a way that it can reach target populations - particularly in their primary environment. In recent years, however, some of these programs are increasingly targeted at particular populations in various settings - including holding family-based programs in churches, schools, and town halls.
Apart from the setting, the prevention programs should also be aptly described by and for the audience that is being targeted. Consider the following:
- Indicated programs, which are designed for people who have already started experimenting with alcohol and drugs
- Selective programs, which primarily target subsets and groups of the population that are at risk of substance abuse - including children from homes where people abuse drugs as well as those who perform poorly in school
- Universal programs, which target the general population, like every student in a particular school
LEVELS OF COMMUNITY BASED DRUG PREVENTION
For community based drug prevention to work, it must be tailored to a variety of settings. To this end, these prevention efforts are provided at different levels, including but not limited to:
a) Family Prevention
In the family, community-based drug prevention programs should strive to strengthen all protective factors - particularly those affecting young children and teens. These programs teach parents how to improve communication skills in the family, come up with appropriate discipline models, enforce rules firmly and consistently, and manage the family effectively.
Research now shows that parents who do the following have a higher chance of reducing or eliminating the risk of drug abuse among these at-risk populations:
- Acquaint themselves with the peers their children spend the greatest time with
- Become involved in their education, learning, and development
- Monitor the activities of family members
- Provide consistent discipline and rules
- Talk to their children about drug use and its adverse consequences
- Understand the concerns and problems affecting members
Overall, the importance of the relationships between parents and their children cannot be overemphasized. Through these relationships, therefore, families can start introducing community-based drug prevention programs to the young before and during adolescence to reduce the risk of substance abuse.
b) School Prevention
Drug abuse prevention programs that are implemented in schools should focus on the academic and social skills of children. They should enhance coping skills, drug refusal skills, and peer relationships to ensure that students do not start experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
As part of community-based drug prevention, these school-based programs should also work in tandem with academic programs. This is because failure in school has been linked with a heightened risk of substance abuse. Additionally, integrated programs should strengthen the bonds that students have with their school while trying to reduce the likelihood that they will drop out.
In the same way, school prevention programming material should come with information that can help students correct their misperception that many people abuse and enjoy drugs and alcohol.
Additional interventions should include school programs that influence and impact the entire population at the school. By adding these interventions, such prevention effects can strengthen protective factors and reduce risk factors linked to drug abuse.
Research now suggests that schools should strive not to group at-risk teens in the same prevention intervention groups. These groups often lead to adverse outcomes because the participants might reinforce each other's tendencies to continue abusing drugs.
c) Community Prevention
Apart from families and schools, community based drug prevention programs should work with law enforcement, religious, civic, and government organizations to positively influence and enhance anti-drug and anti-alcohol norms while promoting pro-social behaviors and interactions.
Today, most of these programs coordinate different prevention efforts across a variety of settings. By so doing, they can effectively communicate consistent messages through the media, religious institutions, businesses, schools, and families.
Research now shows that community-based drug prevention programs that are tailored to reach at-risk groups like the youth through a variety of settings have a higher likelihood of strongly impacting positive community and individual norms against substance abuse.
Therefore, most of these programs now include:
- Community-wide programs to inform and raise awareness about the adverse consequences of substance abuse
- Efforts by the mass media
- The development of effective anti-drug policies
- The enforcement of set rules and regulations against substance abuse
CORE ELEMENTS OF COMMUNITY-BASED DRUG PREVENTION
In the past few years, research and evidence-based drug prevention programs have been proved to be more effective in dealing with the problem of substance abuse in communities.
Tested in different communities and settings and targeting a wide range of populations - such as family-based prevention programs in churches and schools - it was found that the most effective of these programs had some elements in the community.
To this end, as community stakeholders plan and review prevention programs while striving to find the best fit for local needs, it is important that they consider the core elements of an effective research-based program listed below:
- Content: How the program presents strategies, skills, and information
- Delivery: How the prevention program is chosen, adapted, implemented, and evaluated within the community
- Structure: How each prevention program is planned, organized, and constructed
Overall, it is important that community-based drug prevention retains all these core elements while adapting these programs to match and meet local needs and preferences. This can ensure that these programs are effective and that the most successful parts of each program stay intact.
EVALUATING THE IMPACT OF COMMUNITY BASED DRUG PREVENTION
In most instances, it might be difficult to assess the effectiveness of a community-based drug prevention program. As a direct result, various stakeholders consult with program evaluation experts like local state agencies and universities to help with evaluation design.
Even so, such an evaluation should answer some questions, including:
- Are there connections between the outcomes and the total number of programs implemented?
- Did it produce the desired effects in the long term?
- Did the prevention program achieve set expectations in the short term?
- Did the program run as expected?
- How was the prevention program conducted?
- What benefits did participants achieve?
- What did the program accomplish?
In conclusion, community based drug prevention programs should guide actions for ongoing prevention efforts in the long term and according to the changing needs of people in the community. This is why it is essential to monitor the progress of a program and decide whether it is meeting the original goals of reducing and eliminating substance abuse.
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