Goals for Substance Abuse Prevention

The National Drug Control Strategy has defined a list of goals for substance abuse prevention. The first of the five goals is prevention from tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. The problem is that only a miniscule portion of the budget at the federal and state levels will support these efforts. Although prevention has not proven to bare the fruit that it had hoped for it has produced some that have helped reduce drug use. These strategies include well-developed social skills, strong family bonds, attachment to school, and active involvement in the community and religious organizations.

Risk factors that increase vulnerability to drug abuse such as substance abuse by a parent; lack of parental guidance; disruptive, abusive family relationships; school failure; early experimentation with drugs; and living in a community where substance abuse and dealing are pervasive. Attempts to target the prevention efforts at the elementary school level have been softened by claims that there is not enough time to conjoin prevention campaigns in conjunction with school curriculum.

There have been various attempts among Federal lawmakers to combine the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program with other education programs. The goal is to form one large block grant for states, giving them more flexibility in education spending. The change would allow state policy makers to decide how much Federal money will be spent on education priorities, including drug and violence prevention programs. Opponents are concerned that without a specific allotment of funds for school-based drug prevention, these programs will disappear.

State legislatures are traditionally at the forefront of policy change, serving as the headquarters for new ideas and solutions. Drug policy reform is no exception: on issues of drug sentencing, medical marijuana, drug and alcohol overdose prevention, and expansion of effective drug treatment services, many states are working for better ways to reduce the harms associated both with drugs and current drug policies. The Drug Policy Alliance and its partner organization, Drug Policy Alliance Network, is actively working in a number of states (Alabama, California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York) to advance effective drug policies through coalition building, public education and legislative efforts.

In addition, they are closely monitoring the pace of reform in many other states. Although much of the public debate over drug policy involves national strategy, many of the critical choices are made at the state and local level.  It is here that budget decisions are made for criminal justice, prevention and treatment, job training, health care, mental health, and community-based programs.  In addition, there is a growing trend at the Federal level to shift more responsibility for the cost and implementation of social programs to states and localities, many of which are making significant contributions to the creation and development of successful programs for combating drug abuse.

Twelve states reported that their anti-drug budgets continue to grow. However, all states noted that determining precisely how much of the state budget is allocated to this area is a central challenge. Responsibility for prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement and corrections is spread among many state agencies which often do not earmark the funds spent addressing drug abuse.

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