Twenty years of research and practice in the field of substance abuse prevention have yielded much information about what works. This research has led federal agencies and foundations to promote science-based substance abuse prevention and science based programs. Generally, science-based programs are considered to be those that show evidence of effectiveness-that is, produce measurable positive results related to substance use or to risk and protective factors associated with substance use. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA/CSAP, 1999), there are several advantages to adopting science-based prevention programs:
- They maximize the chances of achieving positive prevention outcomes;
- It is more efficient to apply and, if needed, adapt a science-based program than to develop a program from scratch and to prove it is effective;
- and The risk of producing unintended negative outcomes is reduced; in general, programs that produce negative outcomes are not deemed science-based.
While individuals may make the choice to use drugs, these choices are influenced by the environments in which they work, play, and live. Thus, effective prevention must not only focus on individuals but also on the environments that they share or in which they live.
Most substance abuse prevention efforts have focused on individuals and groups, while strategies addressing the environment have generally been underutilized. Recently, however, there has been increased interest in and emphasis on environmental prevention approaches that seek to change the overall context within which substance abuse occurs. Environmental prevention efforts focus on availability, norms, and regulations (Mosher &Jernigan, 1998). Some Massachusetts examples of successful environmental strategies include tobacco control efforts to reduce retail access to tobacco products by minors, community-based vendor education, compliance checks, media campaigns, removal of vending machines, regulations banning smoking in restaurants, and strengthening school tobacco policies and their enforcement.