Overview of Prevention
Research over the last two decades has shown that drug addiction is both preventable and treatable1. It is vital that prevention be a critical component of national, state, and local drug strategies because addiction is a developmental disorder that can begin in adolescence, sometimes as early as childhood, and can be mitigated by preventing and increasing the age of initiation among youth. Children who first smoke marijuana under the age of 14 are more than five times as likely to abuse drugs as adults than those who first use marijuana at age 182.
Each year drug abuse and addiction costs our country nearly $193 billion in preventable health care, law enforcement, crime and other costs. Every dollar invested in research based drug use/abuse prevention programs, strategies and activities has the potential to create savings in the economy. Evidence-based primary prevention, to stop substance use before its starts, is cost-effective, with research showing that, for each dollar invested in prevention, between $2 and $20 in treatment and other health costs can be saved3.
It makes sense to invest in drug prevention and stop use before it starts. Despite this, however, federal funding for drug prevention has been severely cut in the past seven years. In fact, between FY 2009 and FY 2017, the federal investment in prevention has been cut by more than 33% over the last eight years.
These cuts come at a time when the National Survey on Drug Use and Health; the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF); and PRIDE Surveys have reported statistically significant increases in youth substance use, after a decade of decline (1998-2008), while also reporting that attitudes regarding the use of these drugs have softened over the last four or five years. The problem is that drug prevention efforts have been under-utilized, regarding both funding and emphasis, relative to their importance and effectiveness in reducing drug use and its related human and societal costs. If more emphasis is not placed on counterbalancing these softening attitudes, drug use rates will continue to increase.
1Quote by Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
2The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) report. August 23, 2002. Available: http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k2/MJ&dependence/MJdependence.htm
3Swisher, J.D., Scherer and Yin, K. The Journal of Primary Prevention. "Cost-Benefit Estimates in Prevention Research." 25:2, October 2004