Cutting the Costs: Prevention is worth the investment

March 2, 2017

There’s an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” when referring to health-related issues. Preventive measures such as health education or health screenings have been shown to help combat major public health issues and be cost-effective in the long-term.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that in 2015, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug abuse cost the United States more than $700 billion in expenses related to:

  • Crime
  • Lost work productivity
  • Health care

According to the National Institutes of Health, to ensure that high-quality disease prevention research is being used to improve the health of all Americans, it is important to apply evidence-based research when making decisions and designing programs and interventions. The Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST) program has been tested in a series of randomized trials and found effective in preventing cigarette smoking, alcohol, and drug use as well as other risky health behaviors in youth.

What makes LST stand out from other abuse prevention programs is it’s curriculum focusing on topics that support resisting the pressure to use drugs, such as developing a strong self-image and skills in decision making and communication.

Researchers found that the program produced as much as a $50 benefit to communities for every $1 invested –yielding the highest return of any substance abuse prevention curriculum studied.

The implementation process is also user friendly and convenient in that there are:

  • Interactive delivery methods
  • Brief provider trainings
  • Convenient online exercises

Therefore, when working to combat the substance abuse epidemic in the U.S., it is important that health professionals and policymakers focus not only on the health benefits of prevention but also become aware of the potential economic benefits of different prevention methods in order to make informed decisions for funding and resources.


Contributing Writer: Christina Auth recently graduated from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a minor in Sociology.  She is currently interested in global health issues and has studied abroad in countries such as Australia, Barbados, and South Africa observing and researching from an ecological perspective; rural health issues, tropical diseases, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Christina is passionate about epidemiology and environmental health issues that affect diverse communities.  Some of her career aspirations include getting her Masters of Public Health, working for the Peace Corps., and becoming a college professor. In her free time she likes to go on hikes near her house because South Carolina was extremely flat or travel to visit friends in other cities.  She is a huge soup fanatic and loves the band Coldplay.


Fewer Teens See Great Risk From Being Regular Marijuana Users: Survey

December 18, 2013

drugs and booze at a house party

The percentage of teens who think there is a great risk from being a regular marijuana user has dropped, according to a new survey. The Monitoring the Future survey found 39.5 percent of 12th graders think regular marijuana use is harmful, down from 44.1 percent last year.

Monitoring the Future is an annual survey that measures drug use and attitudes among students in grades 8, 10 and 12. The survey found 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, compared with 6 percent in 2003, and 2.4 percent in 1993, CNNreports.

“This is not just an issue of increased daily use,” National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, MD said in a news release. “It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today’s marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago.”

Almost 23 percent of seniors say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year.

The survey found use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, decreased 3.4 percent among high school seniors. Less than 1 percent of all students surveyed said they used bath salts. “Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because their ingredients are unknown, they have not been tested for safety and their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful,” said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston. “Users really don’t know what they are getting.”

The abuse of the painkiller Vicodin has decreased in the last 10 years, from 10.5 percent of high school seniors in 2003, to 5.3 percent this year. The survey also found 7.4 percent of seniors said they took the ADHD drug Adderall for non-medical purposes in the past year, while 2.3 percent reported abusing Ritalin.


NIDA Releases “Marijuana: Facts for Teens”

November 13, 2013

NIDA Drugs


Presented in question-and-answer format and targeted to teens, provides facts about marijuana and its potential harmful effects.

NIH Pub Number: 04-4037
Published: April 2001
Revised: October 2013
Author: National Institute on Drug Abuse


National Drug Fact Week (January 27 – February 2, 2014)

November 11, 2013

What is National Drug Facts Week?

National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is a health observance week for teens that aims to shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. Through community-based events and activities on the Web, on TV, and through contests, NIDA is working to encourage teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse. Download the NDFW Info Sheet

How do I Participate in National Drug Facts Week?

  • Host or Sponsor a NDFW Event!
    Bring together the science and teens by having a scientific expert come to your event, or using NIDA’s educational materials. TheNDFW toolkit will show you how – with step by step suggestions on planning and promoting events. After registering your event, order a “Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths” booklet for every teen attending your event! This booklet provides answers to teens’ most frequently asked questions about drugs.
    • Get free materials for your event here: Tools and Resources
    • Check out photos from past events on our Flickr  page
    • Check out 2014 events already registered on our NDFW Events page
  • Tweet About NDFW!
    If you’re Tweeting about NDFW, be sure to use our hashtag#drugfacts
  • Take the National Drug IQ Challenge!
    During National Drug Facts Week and year round go to to test your knowledge on drugs and drug abuse by taking the interactive National Drug IQ Challenge quiz. New challenge posted annually during NDFW.
  • The next Chat Day is January 28, 2014!
    Since 2008, NIDA scientists have a Web chat with thousands of teens who ask questions about drugs. Learn more about Chat Day.
    2013 Transcript now online!
  • Become a Social Media Partner!
    Tweet, blog, or update your Facebook status to help spread the word about NDFW. Share information with your family and friends that will shatter the myths about drug abuse. Go to the Become a Social Media Partner! page for suggestions on how to create your messages.

Who are NIDA’s Federal Partners for National Drug Facts Week?

NIDA’s Partners in spreading the word about NDFW include: federal, state, and local agencies as well as media companies and organizations like MTV, Scholastic, Inc., and The Partnership at There’s a way for everyone to learn the facts and shatter the myths about drug abuse during National Drug Facts Week!


HHS/NIH/NIDA Accepting Applications for Teen Advisory Group

June 7, 2013

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is now accepting applications from teens to join its Teen Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG meets online and by conference call four to six times a year to share thoughts and feedback about NIDA for Teens materials, the Web site, and other program components. Since 2009, the TAG has been critically important in helping NIDA reach teens with engaging information about drug abuse and addiction.

Additional details:

-All teens in grades 8‒11 are welcome to apply.

-The TAG will meet online for 1 hour, four to six times during 1 year. TAG members receive a $25 stipend for each discussion in which they participate.

-Discussions will be held in the evening via webinar and conference call.

-The TAG will start in September 2013 and end in August 2014.

Email to request an application. Applications are due June 30, 2013

New Fact Sheet on U.S. Demand Reduction Efforts from ONDCP

April 2, 2010

On Monday the ONDCP released the U.S. Demand Reduction Efforts Fact Sheet to highlight programs they support to prevent initial drug use, and treat those who already use. The Obama administration has requested greater support for demand reduction in the FY 2011 Budget. The budget reflects a 6.5% increase in requested funds (when compared to the 2010 enacted Budget), the largest increase in requested funds of all types of counter-drug programs.

More importantly, the administration is requesting a 13% increase in prevention funds for 2011. See below for the section on prevention:

Prevention is most successful when messages are conveyed at home (core values); reinforced in schools, workplaces, and community organizations (reinforcing values). They should link prevention and overall health, reflecting shared social norms (prevailing values).

Prevention Prepared Communities: The FY 2011 request includes $15 million for a pilot network of “prevention-prepared communities.” These offer continuous evidence-based interventions throughout adolescence. $5.6 million are requested for community specialists to develop prevention-prepared communities and increase State agency collaboration. Activities include State-level drug monitoring, technical assistance, and mentoring networks. Also, $2.0 million is requested to fund evaluations of the pilot program.

Research. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will invest $435.2 million in FY 2011 to research the effectiveness of drug prevention.

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The FY 2011 request of $66.5 million targets youth and their parents through advertising and public outreach on television, radio, in magazines and on the internet. For more information go to:

Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program. The FY 2011 request of $85.5 million for DFC provides grants of up to $125,000 per year, for a maximum of 10 years, to local coalitions to mobilize communities against drugs. Similar coalitions funded in part through the State Department exist in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil and South Africa. For more information go to:

Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students. FY-2011 requests $283.1 million to support school based prevention programs.

Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin Presents at Conference Addressing Substance Abuse among Military Personnel

March 16, 2009

Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the highly acclaimed Botvin LifeSkills Training substance abuse and violence prevention program, was an invited speaker at a scientific meeting sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in collaboration with the U.S. Army and other national organizations. The two-day meeting, titled “Addressing Substance Abuse and Co-morbidities Among Military Personnel, Veterans and Their Families:  A Research Agenda,” was held in Bethesda, MD, on January 6 – 7, 2009.  Dr. Botvin described the LifeSkills Training program, summarized the 25 years of research supporting its effectiveness, and discussed the potential application of the LST approach for military personnel and their family.


The meeting focused on understanding the intervention needs of military personnel, veterans, and their families regarding substance abuse, as well as the potential of current prevention and treatment approaches for the military. Recent reports indicate that military personnel returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq experience serious challenges including traumatic brain injury (TBI), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. “The stress that these service members and their families are under can unfortunately lead to substance abuse problems,” Dr. Botvin noted. “This conference was an extremely important first step in applying the advances in prevention and treatment to this population,” he continued. The LST approach offers considerable potential. In addition to the school-based LST program, similar approaches have been developed for families and young adults in the workplace. Application of the LST model to the military would be an important new adaptation of this successful prevention model.


Participants reviewed existing prevention interventions to understand how to successfully conduct research in military and veteran settings. In a recent study of soldiers who had returned from Iraq, those screened several months after their return reported more mental health concerns and were referred at significantly higher rates for treatment than those at the initial post-deployment screening. Alcohol problems were frequently reported, but very few personnel were referred to alcohol treatment. Military operations have been described as particularly difficult for those in the reserve and National Guard. Deployed reserve and National Guard personnel with reported combat exposures are at increased risk of new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse plans on developing a new grant initiative to address the problem of substance abuse and related co-morbidities in the military.

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