Invest in youth prevention.
States and localities should support children, youth, and families by making long-term investments in effective programs and strategies for community change.
Any comprehensive effort to reduce the toll of substance use generally—and opioids specifically—must invest in youth primary prevention programs.
- Overdoses among children have increased steadily over the past decade; nearly 8,000 adolescents ages 15–19 died of an opioid overdose between 1999 and 2016.
- Substance use by children often persists into adulthood; approximately one-half of all people with substance use disorders start their substance use before age 14.
Primary prevention efforts—which are designed to stop use before it starts—can interrupt the pathways to addiction and overdose. Youth primary prevention also reduces the risk of substance use and lessens other negative outcomes, including low educational status, under- and unemployment, unintended parenthood, and an increased risk of death from a variety of causes. Youth prevention programs also have a very favorable return on investment—$18 dollars for every dollar spent by one estimate.
How can jurisdictions adopt this principle?
Direct funds to evidence-based interventions.
Youth primary prevention programs address individual risk factors (such as a favorable attitude towards substance use) and strengthen protective factors (such as resiliency); they can also address elements at the family and community levels.
Research demonstrates that not all prevention programs are created equal. While there are many examples of effective prevention programs, investments in ineffective prevention initiatives persist. Jurisdictions should be sure that the programs that they are funding are supported by a solid evidence base.
Numerous compilations of effective youth primary prevention interventions already exist, including the following:
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development.
- Facing Addiction in America, the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, 2016.
Jurisdictions should also fund long-term evaluations of youth prevention programs to ensure that they are having their desired effect.