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RESEARCH BASED PREVENTION PROGRAMS

Research based prevention programs rely on scientific evidence to deal with the menace of substance abuse and addiction before it continues ruining lives, livelihoods, and people. In effect, they feature various strategies that have been studied and found to be effective.

To this end, these programs are developed from research studies that have demonstrated efficacy in helping participants avoid drugs and alcohol and protect themselves from experimenting with these mind altering and intoxicating substances.

UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH BASED PREVENTION

Research based prevention programs are typically presented in specific audience settings. The categories include tiered, indicated, selective, and universal prevention programs.

Today, they rely on evidence-based scientific approaches to prevent substance abuse among adolescents, children, and young people at the community, family, and school levels.

The primary models of research based prevention programs include indicated, selected, and universal programs for families and schools - as well as comprehensive community based drug prevention programs.

The model programs often include information about their primary goals, implementation methods, provider training, program components, target audiences, and evidence of their effectiveness.

In particular, the effectiveness of these drug prevention programs is mostly focused on ensuring appropriate interventions on the effectives of substance abuse and all related behaviors. These programs are also considered ready for intervention once quality assurance procedures, support and training resources, and implementation materials are available.

ELEMENTS OF EFFECTIVE RESEARCH-BASED DRUG PREVENTION

There are many different substance abuse prevention programs out there. Although these interventions come with different areas of focus - and some of them can even be implemented in various settings - they often involve communities, schools, and families.

These programs work to provide prevention procedures for individuals and specific at-risk populations. They also focus on community and environmental policies and factors, the development of appropriate prevention skills, and other developmental factors.

According to NIDA (or the National Institute on Drug Abuse), some fundamental principles should be applied to research-based prevention programs to ensure their effectiveness and efficacy. These principles are primarily based on the type of prevention program, its delivery, and a variety of protective and risk factors.

Also known as evidence-based prevention, research-based drug prevention often has three core components. Program planners and implementers must focus on these elements to ensure that the programs are effective. They should also consider the fundamental principles outlined by NIDA to ensure that the programs are successful in mitigating the drug problem in communities, families, and schools. These components include:

1. Structure

The structure of research based drug prevention refers to a variety of elements in these programs. These elements include:

a) Audience

Drug prevention programs are typically designed for specific audiences - such as Latino youth, girls at risk, and so on. When these programs are highly tailored to meet the needs and requirements of these audiences, they tend to be more effective at mitigating the drug and alcohol abuse problem.

b) Program Type

Family and school-based prevention programs have been proved to be effective in helping reduce and eliminate substance abuse and addiction. Computer technology and media programs have also demonstrated some level of effectiveness and success in these areas.

c) Setting

Prevention programs - particularly those that are based on scientific research and evidence - are traditionally designed in such a way that they can reach the target audience in their primary setting. For instance, school-based programs are hosted in schools and colleges.

However, some programs are not held in primary settings. For example, you can now find family-based prevention programs being hosted in schools as well as school-based programs being implemented in youth organizations like Girls and Boys Clubs.

In the same way, programs that are focused on different components - or those that have different types of program outlines - often reach the intended audience through different settings. Research now shows that combining more than two effective programs tends to create greater success in comparison to conducting one program.

2. Content

In many instances, the specific content disseminated through research-based prevention often tend to vary from one program to another. However, content is usually designed in such a way that it can create new and strengthen existing protective factors while reducing risk factors.

Even so, the elements of the content used in an effective prevention program should include:

a) Information

The information provided through drug prevention programs should include:

  • Facts about drug and alcohol policies and laws
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • The effects of abusing intoxicating substances

Although information about drugs is essential, however, it has not always been found to create effective intervention measures in and by itself. As such, it is crucial that these programs also include additional components to this information.

b) Services

An evidence-based research program might provide a variety of services. These include health care services, drug free zoning services, and family, peer, school, and individual counseling services.

c) Skills Development

Training audiences to develop specific crucial skills can help them build on and improve their behavior. To this end, research based prevention programs should improve communication skills within the family setting, economic and social development, social and academic competence, as well as other skills to deal with peer pressure.

d) Strategies

Some drug prevention programs are designed to target structural change. As a direct result, these programs might focus on enforcing existing drug and alcohol law - such as those relating to the sale of these substances to minors - as well as establishing curfews, promoting norm changes, enforcing school rules, and creating and enforcing tolerance policies.

3. Delivery

The last aspect of research based prevention programs, delivery usually includes a variety of elements, including:

a) Program Selection/Adaptation

Communities, in particular, must match research based drug prevention programs to the particular needs and requirements of people within the local area. This is the only way to ensure that these programs are a perfect fit.

Adaptation, on the other hand, involves changing programs so that they can fit in with the needs of specific populations and settings. When this happens, however, the core elements of the program must be maintained to ensure that the model is still feasible while changing it to address the specific needs of the target audience.

b) Implementation

Implementation of research-based prevention programs refers to the delivery of these programs. To this end, implementation includes:

  • Program follow-up
  • Methods used
  • Number of sessions provided

Only through proper implementation can a program be considered to be effective in meeting its goals and objectives.

PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE RESEARCH-BASED PREVENTION

Although drug prevention programs have consistently proved effective in mitigating the substance abuse and addiction crisis that is plaguing the country, influential adults and families continue playing an important role - particularly in determining how young people end up handling the deadly lure illegal drugs, prescription medications, cigarettes, and alcohol.

According to recent studies, in fact, when guardians, parents, and other adults who are influential in the lives of young people choose to speak about the issue of substance abuse and spend time with them regularly, there is a simultaneous decrease in the rate of substance use and abuse.

Even so, prevention programs should still support mentoring and family relationships by providing appropriate mentoring/parenting skills and improving communication and interaction strategies in these settings.

Early intervention - particularly when it is conducted before the target audiences reach high school - has been shown to be effective in mitigating the drug problem. According to recent data, the patterns of substance use and addiction tend to worsen when people get to high school.

Additionally, individuals who start using intoxicating and mind-altering substances early in their lives have a higher likelihood of continuing to abuse them later on in their lives. When this happens, it becomes harder for them to quit.

These principles of effective drug prevention arise from long-term research on the origins and progress of substance abuse behaviors. The research also studies some of the common elements in the most effective prevention programs.

Through these principles, drug and alcohol prevention practitioners can now rely on research to address the problem of substance abuse among young adults, adolescents, and children in communities all across the country.

Community leaders, educators, and parents can also rely on these principles to guide their planning, thinking, selection, and delivery of effective research-based drug prevention programs at all levels of engagement with at-risk populations and groups.

Even so, most prevention programs are usually designed to be used in particular settings - such as within the community, at school, or at home. However, they can also be adapted for appropriate use in a variety of settings.

Additionally, the programs are designed with a specific audience in mind - for every single person in a particular population, for individuals with higher risk of substance use, as well as for those who are already involved with alcohol, drugs, and other problematic behavior. As such, some programs can be tailored to meet the needs of more than two audience groups.

With regards to NIDA, research-based programs should focus on the risk of substance abuse as well as any other problematic behavior that can occur all through the development of children - from pregnancy to the point where they reach young adulthood.

According to data and research funded by federal research organizations (including NIDA, the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Mental Health), it is clear that early intervention is effective in preventing the risks attached to teen substance abuse.

But how do research based prevention programs work? Consider the following principles that ensure the effectiveness and efficacy of these programs:

  1. Although protective and risk factors can influences individuals from every sphere of life, these factors tend to have different effects based on the individual's environment, culture, ethnicity, gender, and age
  2. Drug abuse prevention programs should focus on reducing/reversing risk factors and enhancing protective factors
  3. Drug prevention programs should focus on addressing every form of substance abuse - alone and in combination; this includes underage substance abuse, abusing illegal drugs like heroin and marijuana, the inappropriate use of some substances that are legally available such as inhalants, over the counter medications, and prescription drugs
  4. Family-based drug prevention programs should improve family relationships and bonding and encompass parenting skills; they should also provide practices in the development and enforcement of family rules on substance use as well as training in substance education and information
  5. Intervening early on the risk factors (such as poor self-control and aggressive and violent behavior) often has a more significant impact in comparison to later intervention; this is particularly true because it can effectively change the child's life path or trajectory aware from these problems and towards more positive behavior
  6. Prevention programs must address the specific type of substance abuse problem that plagues a particular community, work on targeting the risk factors that can be changed, and strengthen the protective factors that were identified
  7. Prevention programs must be designed to provide early intervention - even as early as infancy - to address all risk factors of substance abuse, including aggressive behavior, academic difficulties, and poor social skills
  8. Prevention programs must be tailored at addressing the risks that are specific to audience and population characteristics like ethnicity, gender, and age while looking to improve their efficacy
  9. The potential influence of specific protective and risk factors will change with age. For instance, risk factors in the family can have an enormous impact on a young child while associating with drug-using peers might prove to be more risky for teens
  10. The risk that someone will start abusing drugs involves the relationships between the types and number of risk factors (like deviant behaviors and attitudes) and protective factors (such as parental support and oversight)
  11. Prevention programs designed for children in elementary school should attempt to improve socio-emotional and academic learning as well as address all risk factors for substance abuse, including academic failure, school dropout, and early aggression. The education provided should also build on the following skills:
    • Academic support
    • Academic support
    • Assertiveness
    • Communication
    • Communication
    • Drug resistance skills
    • Emotional awareness
    • Peer relationships
    • Reinforcement of anti-alcohol and anti-drug attitudes
    • Self-control
    • Self-efficacy
    • Social problem-solving
    • Strengthening personal commitments against substance abuse
    • Study habits

Overall, research-based prevention programs are governed by many other principles. These principles inform the design, implementation, execution, and evaluation of these programs to ensure their efficacy both in the short and in the long term.

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