An Ounce of Prevention

Blog · Oct 20, 2020

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) have designated October National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month.  A cornerstone of this annual campaign is the Dose of Prevention Challenge, an initiative designed to raise awareness of the effectiveness of prevention education among parents and others.  The Campaign encourages families and their communities to hold community events to bring the substance-free message to the fore and to support environmental strategies to promote no-use norms.  As the opioid crisis has deepened over the past several years, it’s critical that schools and community organizations participate in prevention efforts in October as well as throughout the year.  This week, we’ll explore the effects of prevention education and other strategies in mitigating the risk factors for opioid misuse.

When used correctly under the direction of a healthcare provider, prescription pain medicines are a valuable part of the administration of health services providing relief to those recovering from surgeries, managing chronic conditions, and addressing other ailments.  However, the misuse of prescription opioids carries a significant risk of dependence and addiction. An inferred impression that prescription opioids are less harmful than street drugs because they have legitimate medical uses reduces the perception of the harm these drugs can inflict.  Indeed, it is because these drugs are so powerful that they are made available only by prescription.


prevention strategies that begin early in childhood to delay or stop problem behaviors provide some of the most effective defenses we have against opioid misuse


The Center for Disease Control reports that overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were more than four times higher in 2018 than in 1999.  Additionally, one in five young adults has abused a prescription drug. Statistically, medication abuse increases with age, so the earlier we equip children with the necessary skills to resist substance abuse and prepare them with healthy attitudes and norms regarding substance use, the more likely they will refuse and avoid substance use.

Prevention education is a proactive process that builds protective factors including social and emotional capacity, perception of harm, and healthy coping strategies to equip children to manage and recover from stressful events. Common risk factors for substance use can be mitigated when children have developed the ability to use skills to manage challenges and adverse conditions.  Thus, effective prevention strategies that begin early in childhood to delay or stop problem behaviors provide some of the most effective defenses we have against opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose.  Skills development coupled with information on the risks and negative effects of the misuse of medicine provide students with a capacity for healthy social development and emotional competency and promote unity and positive norms throughout a school.


The Dose of Prevention Challenge

CADCA’s Dose of Prevention Challenge encourages schools and community health agencies to spotlight the effectiveness of prevention in reducing substance use incidence.  The impact of early prevention efforts on later substance use disorder risk is well documented.  The links between adolescent brain development and risk seeking underscore the need to begin talking with early adolescents about healthy and unhealthy risk taking.  Evidence-based prevention education programs like Too Good for Drugs promote the development of character-building skills to strengthen self-efficacy and promote the mindfulness to both be self-aware and increase self-regulation, and to maintain the resolve to reject undesirable peer behavior.  Coupled with age-appropriate prescription and OTC education, a knowledge and skills-based approach forms an effective strategy to build protection against future substance misuse.

Prevention efforts are more effective when they reach beyond the school walls and involve parents and the community to reinforce the prevention message.  CADCA’s Dose of Prevention Challenge recommends engaging the community in events to raise awareness and garner support for reinforcing no-use norms and expectations in the community.  When community leaders reinforce healthy, substance free norms and support policies to address the community risk factors for substance use, school-based prevention efforts have more durable effects.  Too Good programs provide resources and ideas for family and community activities reinforce prevention education efforts.

You can meet this year’s Dose of Prevention Challenge by inviting parents, caregivers, and community leaders to participate in your prevention efforts whether virtually or in-person.  Host a car-parade to celebrate the Dose of Prevention Challenge and involve kids in decorating cars and demonstrating support for a drug-free community.  Invite community members and parents to a webinar panel featuring behavioral health specialists, where people can learn about the prevention efforts already underway in your community. Or, if you are early in your prevention strategy planning, visit our online Implementation Center to inform your plans. Invite parents and community members to join you in the planning process. For additional resources on how to rally your community around prevention education and promote positive norms around substance use, visit these sites for ideas.

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