Understanding Meth and Providing Prevention Education
In 2005, an estimated 1.3 million persons aged 12 or older had used methamphetamine in the past year, according to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. NSDUH also estimates that nearly 12 million people have tried methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime. No longer a West Coast problem, methamphetamine has migrated to many areas throughout the United States and cities and states can do well to get ahead of the problem through prevention activities before it becomes an epidemic in their communities.
Prevention and intervention strategies are intended to (a) promote the skills and attitudes for services necessary to resist pressures to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, (b) help students avoid antisocial behavior that may disrupt learning, (c) encourage students to reduce the substance use for which they were referred, and (d) remove barriers to school success. Washington state has successfully adopted such strategies and an independent statewide evaluation found that the state's Prevention and Intervention Services Program yielded positive outcomes in each of these areas as assessed by a self-report instrument administered before and after participation in program services.
Adopting effective and evidence- or research-based programs are also keys to success. Such programs have been tested and have proven effective in diverse communities, in a wide variety of settings, and with a range of populations. (The Office of National Drug Control Policy provides some guidingevidence-based principles supported by research for substance abuse prevention.)
The most successful programs are structured to address program type (such as school-based or family based), audience, and setting. Careful research should be conducted before choosing the content for a prevention program. It is important to identify gaps and to match proven programs and adapt them to meet the needs of a particular community and the target audience.
Prevention programs are also more effective when they are long-term and include repeated interventions to reinforce the original prevention goals. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the benefits from middle school prevention programs diminish without follow-up programs in high school.
Incentives for Prevention
Preventing drug abuse and other problem behaviors can produce benefits for communities that outweigh the monetary costs. For each dollar invested in prevention, communities save up to $10 in treatment for substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Of course, the savings can be even greater when you consider the costs that methamphetamine inflicts on communities: costs to taxpayers for environmental cleanup, costs to businesses from theft and dramatically reduced productivity from users, costs to healthcare systems, costs to communities due to theft and property damage and increased law enforcement to deal with the problem, and the emotional and financial costs the drug imposes on families.
While no prevention program can guarantee the end of methamphetamine production and use, such programs have proven to make a noticeable impact in reducing methamphetamine use and encouraging and helping people develop the skills necessary to keep themselves free of illicit drug addiction and lead healthy and productive lives.