How Prevention Helps
Pervasive, consistent messages to young people about drugs and alcohol can prevent substance abuse. Effective prevention requires that the same messages about alcohol, drugs, and tobacco be delivered by multiple messengers--schools, parents, peers, and the community--repeatedly throughout childhood and adolescence.
The primary goal of prevention is to delay the first use of alcohol or other drugs. Research indicates that adolescents who begin drinking before age 14 are significantly more likely to experience alcohol dependence at some point in their lives compared to individuals who begin drinking after 21 years of age. In addition, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a number of negative consequences, such as physical or sexual assault, unintentional injuries, memory problems, legal problems, and impaired school performance. That's why delaying the age of first use of alcohol and drugs is a critical goal of prevention. However, other protective factors, especially proactive parenting and strong family bonds, can help delay adolescents' experimentation with drugs and alcohol and thus help reduce long-term problems.
Prevention works best when attention is given to multiple risk and protective factors. Such factors exist in many areas of an adolescent's life, and common risk factors can predict many problems. Reducing one risk factor may result in reduction of multiple problems in the family, school, peer group, and/or community. Increasing protective factors supports healthy development in all life areas, which helps them to resist influences to use.