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Addiction Prevention


The abuse of alcohol and drugs is a problem that schools, workplaces and homes struggle with in communities across North America.  At Sunshine Coast Health Center, we find that families are often unaware of the impact that drugs have on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of those that abuse them. This is true even when there is a history of addiction in the family and family members have seen first-hand the destructiveness of drug abuse.

While the media often report on problems associated with drugs and drug abuse (i.e. organized crime, impaired driving, marijuana decriminalization, celebrities in rehab, etc.) little airplay is provided to explaining what drugs are or their impact on those that abuse for mood-altering effect.

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The Canadian Network of Substance Abuse and Allied Professionals (CNSAAP) defines addiction prevention as “interventions that seek to (a) delay the age of first use or (b) reduce/prevent harmful use after it has occurred” ¹.

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Traditional Categories

Addiction Prevention has traditionally been categorized by the population that its initiatives have targeted (2). The three categories are:

  1. Primary – aimed at preventing a problem from occurring, including preventing the use of drugs or delaying the uptake (see the School Drug Abuse section.)
  2. Secondary – aimed at high risk groups and intervening early to prevent the problem from occurring (see the Workplace Substance Abuse section and Special Populations section.)
  3. Tertiary – aimed at people already suffering from a drug use disorder or dependency and seeks to reduce harm to the individual and community (see the Harm Reduction section.)

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An Amended Classification of Prevention Initiatives

In a 1994 report on addiction prevention research, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (3) proposed a new framework for classifying prevention based on Gordon’s operational classification of disease prevention (4). The IOM model divides prevention into three new classifications:

  1. Universal – aimed at the entire population (national, local community, school, neighbourhood), with messages and programs aimed at preventing or delaying the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. All members of the population share the same general risk for substance abuse, although the risk may vary greatly among the individuals.
  2. Selective – are targeted at subsets of the total population that are deemed to be at risk for substance abuse by virtue of their membership in a particular population segment – for example, children of adult alcoholics, high school dropouts, etc. Targeted subgroups may be defined by age (adolescents, seniors), gender, family history, place of residence (high drug-use or low-income neighbourhoods), or victimization (physical, sexual abuse). Selective prevention targets the entire subgroup but does NOT target the individual in the subgroup. Selective prevention programs are presented to the entire subgroup because the subgroup is at higher risk for substance abuse than the general population.
  3. Indicated – are strategies designed to prevent the onset of substance abuse in individuals who do not meet DSM-IV criteria for addiction, but who are showing early danger signs, such as failing grades and consumption of alcohol and other gateway drugs. The actual consumption of drugs or alcohol is secondary to exhibiting risk factors such as conduct disorder, alienation from parents, school, and positive peer groups. Indicated strategies would be the most appropriate strategies for youth already involved with the juvenile justice system.

Note that this new classification system does not address prevention initiatives targeted at reducing harm (needle exchanges, safe injection, etc.) for people already suffering from drug addiction.

(1) Source: CNSAAP
(2) Source: Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, 2002, Policy Position: Drug Misuse
(3) Source: Drug Abuse Prevention: What Works (1997) National Institute of Drug Abuse.

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Workplace substance abuse prevention is designed to assist companies effectively deal with drug and alcohol as a matter of (1) safety, (2) health, and (3) performance.

If you are concerned about the impact that substance abuse is having at your workplace, this section is for you. Employers, human resource staff, and employees will all benefit from being better informed about how they can minimize the negative impact of drugs and alcohol.

For more information refer to the Workplace Substance Abuse section.

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Teachers and parents can reduce the harm associated with alcohol and drug abuse in our schools. Resources have been developed to help understand drug abuse and help stakeholders work with children and adolescents, utilizing programs tailored for specific age groups.

For more information refer to the School Drug Abuse section.

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Besides schools and workplaces, governments focus addiction prevention efforts as part of a broader public health initiative. Special populations in our communities that are targeted include injection drug users; pregnant mothers; sex workers; impaired drivers; and gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender (GLBT).

For community addiction treatment resources in the community refer to the Special Populations section.

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The following resources provide addiction prevention resources for parents, public health providers, and law enforcement who work in communities. Additional resource information for employers and teachers is available in the Workplace Substance Abuse section and School Drug Abuse section.

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Printed Resources – General Information on Addiction Prevention

Drug Abuse Prevention: What Works (1997) provides an overview of the theory and research on addiction prevention. Focuses on the key features of three prevention strategies – universal, selective, and indicated. Karol L. Kumpeer, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), NIH Publication 97-4110.

Handbook of Drug Abuse Prevention: Theory, Science, and Practice(2003) provides an overview on prevention theory, intervention design, and prevention research methodology. Zili Sloboda, William J. Bukoski (Eds.).

Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control (1995) argues that the prevailing approach to preventing or reducing alcohol problems is generally ineffective, even counter-productive. David J. Hanson.

Preventing Substance Abuse: Interventions that Work(1996) is an informal guide to successful prevention programs for treating specific substance abuse problems, identifying their origins, implementation, outcomes, and, where possible, contacts for obtaining additional information. Michael J. Stoil, Gary Hill.

Prevention and Societal Impact of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (1999) documents the accomplishments of the leading researchers in the field of prevention science. Robert T. Ammerman, Peggy J. Ott, Ralph E. Tarter

Stopping Alcohol & Other Drug Use Before it Starts: The Future of Prevention(1990) includes a summary of the epidemic of alcohol and other drug use, knowledge about prevention of alcohol and other drug use, identification of youths at high risk, reduction of risk, and the next steps to take. Robert L. DuPont (Ed.), Office for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Printed Resources – Education in Correctional Settings and Addiction Prevention

Arresting Addictions: Drug Education and Relapse Prevention in Corrections (2002) Robert B. Alexander and George John Pratsinak

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Printed Resources – Parenting and Addiction Prevention

Addiction Proof Your Child: A Realistic Approach to Preventing Drug, Alcohol, and Other Dependencies (2007) Stanton Peele

Drug Abuse Prevention (2003) Richard Wilson

Drug Abuse Prevention Through Family Interventions (1998) focuses on family-based interventions as opposed to school-based interventions. Rebecca S. Ashery, Elizabeth B. Robertson, Karol L. Kumpfer (Eds.), NIDA Research Monograph 177, NIH Publication No. 99-4135, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Drugproof Kids: The Ultimate Prevention Handbook for Parents to Protect Children from Addictions  (2004) Frank Simonelli Jr.

Drugs and Your Kid: How to Tell If Your Child Has a Drug/Alcohol Problem & What to Do About It (2002) Peter D. Rogers and Lea Goldstein

Educating Yourself About Alcohol and Drugs: A People’s Primer (1998) Marc Alan Schuckit

Preventing Addiction: What Parents Must Know to Immunize Their Kids Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction (2006) combines the latest scientific research with the important principles involved in building moral character in young people. John C. Fleming

Raising Drug-Free Kids: 100 Tips for Parents (2006) Aletha Solter

Printed Resources – Research and Addiction Prevention

Reducing Adolescent Risk: Toward an Integrated Approach(2003) by concentrating on common causes for risk behaviors, a group of leading researchers synthesize current knowledge about risks to adolescent health in several areas, including drugs and alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc. Daniel Romer.

Substance Abuse Prevention: The Intersection of Science and Practice (2003) presents the most current research in the field, analyzing what does and doesn’t work. Designed for the substance abuse prevention professional, and addiction professional. Julie Hogan, Kristen Gabrielsen, Nora Luna, Denise Grothaus.

For more information on research see the Addiction Research section.

Printed Resources – Teens and Addiction Prevention

For more information on adolescents see the Help for Parents & Teens section.

Printed Resources – Tobacco and Addiction Prevention

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General(1997) focuses on 10 to 18 year olds and examines the health effects of early smoking and smokeless tobacco. M. Joycelyn Elders.

For more information on tobacco see the Tobacco section.

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Websites Specific to Addiction Prevention

Australian Drug Foundation
Management of Substance Abuse – WHO

Websites Specific to Parenting and Addiction Prevention

The Incredible Years

Websites Specific to Teens and Addiction Prevention

The Cool Spot
National Children’s Coalition
NIDA for Teens
Tobacco Tips for Youth

Online Resources – Best Practices and Teen Addiction Prevention

Preventing Substance Use Problems Among Young People: A Compendium of Best Practices  (2002) discusses the best ways to prevent substance use problems among youth, effective programs to reduce harm for youth already using substances, and a feature on most promising Canadian prevention programs. Health Canada. Cat. H39-580/2001E.

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Online Resources – Communities and Addiction Prevention

Cities Without Drugs” The ‘Major Cities’ Guide to Reducing Substance Abuse in Your Community (November 2005) is a booklet intended to be a valuable resource for cities working to develop strategies for combating the scourge of illegal drugs on their streets and in their neighborhoods.

A Study of Resiliency in Communities (1999) is the results of a study in three small coastal communities in Atlantic Canada hard hit by the collapse of the groundfish industry in the early 1990s. The results of the study revealed that, despite considerable risk in terms of employment and the economy, these three communities displayed remarkable resilience and guarded optimism about the future. Office of Alcohol, Drugs and Dependency Issues, Health Canada. Cat. No. H39-470/1999E.

Online Resources – Criminal Justice and Addiction Prevention

An Evaluation of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (September 2006) examines the effects of these programs on the supply and abuse of prescription drugs. Simeone Associates.

The Chinese Connection: Cross-border Drug Trafficking between Myanmar and China (April 2007) is a 2-year field study of drug trafficking activities between Myanmar and China.

National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy (June 2009) is part of the National Drug Control Strategy.

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Online Resources – Drug Courts and Addiction Prevention

Justice Programs Office has the Drug Court Clearinghouse Project which has been operating at American University since 1994 and services as a national clearinghouse for drug information and activity.

For more information on drug courts see the offenders section of Special Populations.

Online Resources – The Economy and Addiction Prevention

The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-2002 is a report that presents current and trend estimates of the economic costs of drug abuse in the United States.

Online Resources – Government Programs for Addiction Prevention

A Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada’s Youth (2007) is the federal five-year plan for mobilizing youth-focused media and youth service organizations in Canada, setting national prevention standards, and building broad-based sustainable partnerships. Canadian Centre on Substance Use (CCSA).

Inventory of State Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Activities and Expenditures (November 2006) documents how States spend the funds allocated to them by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Block Grant Program for substance abuse prevention and treatment services.

National Framework For Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances in Canada (January 2008) sets out a vision, principles, goals, and priorities for action to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs and substances in Canada. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

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Online Resources – Methamphetamine and Addiction Prevention

Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs (August 2006) Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

The Drug Lab Cleanup Program is an Oregon-based program designed to prevent the spread of meth labs and to protect human health.

Methamphetamine: A New Tiger to Tame (October 2006) highlights drug prevention efforts in various states. The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law.

The Meth Watch Program is a public-private partnership between law enforcement, state officials, and the retail community, Meth Watch is designed to help curtail the suspicious sale and theft of common household  products used in the illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Online Resources – Nightclubs and Addiction Prevention

DanceSafe promotes health and safety within the rave and nightclub community.

Online Resources – Parenting and Addiction Prevention

Alcohol, Teens, and Catastrophe: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Avoiding Alcohol Liability (October 2006) shows ways, as a parent, to reduce your legal vulnerability and minimize the risks of alcohol-related injuries and deaths. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Prevention Tips for Families (February 2005) is a list of tips compiled to help parents through the challenging years of adolescent development. Stephen R. Andrew, LCSW, LADC.

Talking to Your Child About Drugs (May 2005) reminds parents that kids who aren’t properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs. KidsHealth for Parents.

Talking to Your Teenager is a website that can answer questions about talking to your teenager about alcohol. Australian Government.

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Online Resources – Research on Addiction Prevention

Alcoholism: Science Made Easy (2004) has a section specific to adolescent drinking. Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC).

The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction is a central website that houses handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc. The Brain is curriculum developed for students grades 9 to 12. Teaches students the fundamentals of neurobiology, how drug abuse changes the brain, and how drug addiction is a treatable, chronic brain disease. National Institute of Health, Curriculum Supplement Series.

The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction (2000) is a 180-page PDF resource that serves as a facilitator manual. National Institute on Health. NIH Publication 00-4871, ISBN 1-929614-05-5

CESAR is a database of articles on addiction trends and issues for policymakers; prevention specialists, treatment and health care providers; law enforcement officials; researchers and academicians; and media representatives.

Family: the Challenge of Prevention of Drug Use(2001) is a study on the state of the art in what concerns family prevention programs. F. Mendes, A. P. Relvas. IREFREA.

Family Relationships and Primary Prevention of Drug Use in Early Adolescence (1999) Fernando Mendes, Ana Paula Relvas. IREFREA.

NIDA InfoFacts: Lessons from Prevention Research (February 2004) lists principles based on long-term research studies on the origins of drug abuse behaviors and the common elements of effective prevention programs. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders (2nd Ed.) (October 2003) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIH Publication No. 04-4212(A).

Prevention of Alcohol Problems is an online research biography on alcohol problem prevention. Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies.

Stress and Drug Abuse reviews research on the stress and drug use, and the relationship between stress and relapse. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Substance Abuse in Canada: Youth in Focus (September 2007) looks at the issue of youth substance use and abuse from several perspectives including (1) substance use and harm in the general youth population, (2) substance use among non-mainstream youth, (3) our responses to youth substance abuse, (4) neuroscience and youth substance abuse, and (5) gaps in our approach to youth substance use and abuse. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

For more information on research see the Addiction Research section.

Online Resources – Screening and Brief Intervention as Addiction Prevention

Screening & Brief Intervention (January 2007) discusses states with established Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) programs. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Online Resources – Teens and Addiction Prevention

Drug Use Prevention Among Young People: A Review of Reviews (January 2006) focuses on ‘what works’ to prevent and/or reduce illicit drug use among young people aged between 7 and 25 years old. Yuko McGrath, Harry Sumnall, Jim McVeigh, Mark Bellis, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Evidence for effective drug prevention in young people: A summary of findings arising from research activity to date (May 2004) Louise Millward, Daniel Warm, Ross Coomber, Jane Chambers, Mike Kelly, Health Development Agency.

Review of grey literature on drug prevention among young people (May 2006) reviews the literature for drug prevention among young people that do not traditionally find their way into systematic reviews, namely grey literature. Yuko McGrath, Harry Sumnall, Kimberley Edmonds, Jim McVeigh, Mark Bellis, Health Development Agency, UK.

For more information on teen addiction prevention see the School Drug Abuse section.


The Joys of Meth (January 2007) shows the dangers of meth use and production. PurePowders (YouTube).

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