What Is Prevention?

Substance abuse clearly is among the most costly health problems in the United States. Among national estimates of the costs of illness for 33 diseases and conditions, alcohol ranked second, tobacco ranked sixth, and drug disorders ranked seventh (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2000). Programs designed to prevent substance abuse can reduce these costs.

Can we Prevent Substance Abuse in Vermont?

  • Science-validated substance abuse prevention programs, if properly implemented by schools and communities, can reduce substance abuse.
  • These (science-validated) programs work to boost protective factors and eliminate or reduce risk factors for drug use.
  • Also demonstrating success are environmental strategies - those prevention efforts aimed at changing or influencing community conditions, standards, systems and policies. For example, research shows that sales to underage youth are higher in communities where a responsible beverage service training program is not in place.  

Substance Abuse Prevention: Benefits Outweigh Costs

The positive outcomes from successful substance abuse prevention efforts are many.

  • Prevent expenditure on drug abuse-related emergency room visits,
  • Increased productivity,
  • Improved job stability,
  • Fewer unemployment episodes,
  • Lower rates of violent crime,
  • Prevention of DUI injuries to others,
  • Better family interaction,
  • Reduced juvenile delinquency,
  • Fewer incidents of family violence,
  • Improved school attendance and academic achievement, and
  • Better health outcomes.

Cost Benefit studies indicate that $1 spent on substance abuse prevention can result in $10 of long-term savings.

Examples of Practices to Prevent and Reduce Substance Abuse and Addiction

Prevention and Early Intervention

  • Targeted media campaigns
  • Comprehensive family, school and community-based prevention
  • Screenings, brief interventions and treatment referrals

Treatment and Disease Management

  • Behavioral and pharmacological treatments for chronic illness
  • Intensive case management
  • Drug treatment alternatives to prison
  • Prison based treatment/ aftercare
  • Recovery coaching
  • Supportive housing
  • Employee Assistance Programs

Taxation and Regulation

  • Alcohol and tobacco tax increases
  • Health insurance coverage for prevention & addiction
  • Indoor smoking bans
  • Keg registration laws
  • Maintaining Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21
  • Lowered blood alcohol levels for intoxicated driving offenses


  • Factors influencing risk
  • Best practices
  • Costs and benefits of interventions