Substance Abuse Prevention Programs Essay


Many techniques have been used for preventing substance abuse and more are being discovered. Programs such a Media literacy education (MLE) and Functional Family Therapy (FFT) are helping combat substance abuse before use and after. Media literacy is proven to help children expand critical thinking and use their own minds to uninterest in experimenting. It slows children to avoid media influence and think for themselves. Functional Family Therapy has also been proven to reduce the likelihood of use of remission. Family support and participation reinforce one’s desire to change and prevent substance abuse in the long run.

Keywords:  Substance Abuse, Prevention, Media Literacy Education, Functional Family Therapy, Children, Adolescents.

Substance Abuse Prevention Programs

Many techniques have been used to prevent and to treat substance abuse. I have experience with these techniques as when I was a child, my school implemented the DARE program. Having gone through the DARE program, my opinion on it is that it did not accomplish what it was intended. Aside from myself, I know many peers who also went through the program and still experimented with substances. Programs like these have been used to prevent children and adults from using and abusing drugs. Spreading awareness and informing people of the dangers is the usual standard for prevention but it does not always work. Because of this, new and innovative techniques must be found and used to prevent substance abuse. I researched two different types of prevention programs that are used to combat substance abuse. The two programs focus on preventing substance abuse before use and preventing further use after abuse. The program that focused on primary prevention was a child targeted program that used media literacy education (MLE) to strengthen children’s responses to media messages (Scull, Kupersmidt , & Weatherholt , 2017). The program that focused on prevention after abuse was a Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program that targeted adolescents that have abused drugs. Both these programs are innovative and different techniques used to combat substance abuse rather the simple Alcohols Anonymous and Detox rehabilitation.

The MLE program focus is to expand children critical thinking skills when it comes to media exposure to lessen the chance of children being persuaded by advertising. Scull stated, “the Media Detective program—a group-based MLE substance abuse prevention program implemented with elementary school students–was found to (a) reduce intentions to use both alcohol and tobacco in the future, (b) increase media-related critical thinking, (c) reduce boys’ interest in alcohol-branded merchandise, and (d) increase self-efficacy to refuse substance use in the future, for students who had previously used one or the other substance” (Scull, Kupersmidt , & Weatherholt , 2017). This program showed to accomplish its goal and that was to prevent children from substance abuse. The parents of these children were added to the program as well, to reinforce prevention. Scull says, “Parents can help to reduce the risk of substance use through increasing parent–child communication; monitoring their children’s behaviors; the use of positive norms and expectations about abstaining from substance use; and modeling healthy behaviors.” (Scull, Kupersmidt , & Weatherholt , 2017). When parents get involved in the lives of their children, those children have positive reinforcement and someone to depend on. My main belief is good parenting will, majority of the time, prevent children from any negative behavior. My upbringing of strict but open lifestyle and Catholic belief helped cement my morals for what I wanted in my life. I think this study’s implementation of parents is a great addition and will increase the chances of prevention. This program uses a Media Detective Family program that parents, and children complete together. The method of this program was different sessions that taught and informed kids, as well as allow kids to think for themselves to broaden their critical thinking skills to tackle media influence. Scull found that this program was effective in reducing substance experimentation in children. Scull also notes that “it is the first in the field to report a reduction in substance use behaviors as a function of participating in an MLE program using a rigorous experimental design.” (Scull, Kupersmidt , & Weatherholt , 2017). I find this very important because based of going through a type of prevention program that I believed failed, this program is a step in the right direction. This program taught children on how to decipher the messages that media was putting into their brains. They learned how to combat the influence and how to think for themselves on the actual consequences of substance abuse.

The next program that I discovered is Functional Family Therapy in preventing further use after history of abuse. Functional Family Therapy is “an evidence-based approach to the treatment of adolescent behavioral problems and substance misuse based on an ecological multifactorial model of risk and protective factors.” (Hartnett, Carr, Hamilton , & O’Reilly, 2017). The program consists of three phases, Engagement and motivation, behavior change, and generalization. The first phase, the therapist attempts to reduce intra-familial negativity and blame. In the second, the therapist works with the family to develop behavioral competencies where deficits are maintaining factors. In the third, the skills acquired in the behavior change phase are generalized to outside the family and used for future challenges. In the results of the study of these programs found support for the effectiveness of FFT. In this meta-analysis, one study found “family-based treatments were more effective than routine treatment in reducing behavioral problems, with family-based approaches significantly reducing time spent in institutions and the risk of re-arrest and recidivism 1–3 years following treatment.” (Hartnett, Carr, Hamilton, & O’Reilly 2017). This shows a positive effect for preventing substance by using this type of prevention. Even years after, a positive effect is shown, which is further proof of the effectiveness of FFT. The author finds a study that said, “, in a systematic review of 45 trials of treatments for adolescent drug users, concluded that family therapy is more effective than a range of ALTs, a finding which is consistent with a number of other systematic reviews.” (Hartnett, Carr, Hamilton, & O’Reilly 2017). I think the reasoning for this positive effect is the importance of family. Just like in the other youth prevention program, having family to fight the issue with, is very motivational and rewarding. I am a firm believer in the importance of family and the effects it has on people. I think the lack of family support is what leads to a lot of substance abuse and experimentation. So, having a strong family bond, and having your family fight a personal issue allows for support and reward.

These two programs were just some of the different techniques that have been used to prevent substance abuse. The MLE informs children and opens their minds for self-think and critical analysis. This stops their minds from being “brainwashed” by tobacco companies and advertisement that targets them for being susceptible. Also, the support and participation from parents allows for better communication and connectiveness between child and parent. This type of support is the same support that pushes functional family therapy. This program uses those that one’s care for the most, to help along their journey of recovery. Support and motivation are all most need in life. It’s what helps us tackle any challenge in hardship. It is also a way to prevent substance abuse.


  • Hartnett, D., Carr, A., Hamilton , E., & O’Reilly, G. (2017). The Effectiveness of Functional Family Therapy for Adolescent Behavioral and Substance Misuse Probelms: A Meta-Analysis.

    Family Process, 56

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  • Scull, T. M., Kupersmidt , J. B., & Weatherholt , T. N. (2017). The effectiveness of online, family-based media literacy education for substance abuse prevetnion in elementary school children: Study of the Media Detective Family Program.

    Journal of Community Psychology, 24

    (6), 796-809. doi:10.1002/jcop.21893