When is prevention best practiced?

This isn’t a joke: the answer is ANYTIME. Because drug and alcohol problems don’t occur in a vacuum, prevention work can be happening anytime, anywhere, at any age.

That said, there are specific ages when prevention can be especially effective.

Early Use and an Increased Potential for Future  Dependence  

Youth are five times more likely to develop a substance use disorder compared to adults: only about 10 percent of substance dependence cases occur in people who began using after adolescence.

  • People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are 6 1/2 times likelier to become addicted than those who delay first use until age 21 or older

  • 9 out of 10 people with addiction involving nicotine alcohol or other drugs began using these substances before they were 18

  • Every year that substance use is delayed during brain development, the risk of addiction decreases

(Source: CASAColumbia. (2011). Adolescent substance use: America's #1 public health problem.)

Findings indicate a strong link between substance use disorders and the onset of substance use specifically during puberty:

“Puberty is a very critical developmental period due to ongoing neurodevelopmental processes in the brain. It is exactly during puberty that substances like drugs of abuse - alcohol, cannabis, etc. - may induce the most destructive and also persistent effects on the still developing brain, which may in some cases even result in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or addictive disorders. Prevention work therefore needs to increase awareness of specific risks and vulnerability related to puberty.” -Miriam Schneider

Successful efforts to prevent, delay or minimize substance use during adolescence reduce the many public health, safety, and economical threats associated with addiction. And yet, as a state, we pay little attention to prevention and early intervention for our kids.