Substance abuse prevention is a process that attempts to prevent the onset of substance use and/or limit the development of problems associated with misuse of substances. Prevention efforts focus on the individual as well as their surroundings. The concept of “environmental prevention” focuses on changing community conditions or policies so that the availability of substances is reduced along with its demand.

Substance abuse takes a toll on individuals, families, and communities. It costs money and it costs lives.  Prevention is an important, yet sometimes overlooked, proactive means to reduce costs and save lives. Research over the last two decades has proven that drug and alcohol addiction is both preventable and treatable. Therefore, prevention strategies must be a critical component for any comprehensive strategy to address drug abuse and underage drinking.

Our system often takes a reactive approach, trying to fix the problem after it has already occurred, rather than addressing the root of the problem through prevention.  Recent cost benefit analysis revealed the cost-benefit ratios for early treatment and prevention for addictions and mental illness programs range from 1:2 to 1:10—meaning $1 in investment yields $2 to $10 savings in health costs, criminal and juvenile justice costs, educational costs, lost productivity, physical and mental healthcare, etc. Recent numbers show that for every dollar invested in a community coalition in Tennessee, $1.26 of in kind community support was generated.  That is a return on investment of more than 100%.

Each year, drug and alcohol abuse costs this country more than $500 billion in law enforcement, emergency room visits, property damage, extended physical and mental healthcare and other connected expenses.