Substance Use Disorder Prevention Models
Prevention programs target different populations at risk for substance use disorder (SUD). Prevention programs
focus on helping individuals to develop knowledge and skills, or changing environmental and community factors
that affect a large population. Providers, schools, public health departments, and other organizations in the
community may collaborate to implement these programs. Programs can be implemented in settings such as schools,
workplaces, and communities.
Prevention efforts are divided into three
Universal preventive interventions reach an entire population to prevent
substance use disorders.
Selective preventive interventions target subgroups of the population that are
at risk for substance use disorders.
Indicated preventive interventions are aimed at individuals who are exhibiting
early signs of having a substance use disorder though they have not been diagnosed.
Many SUD prevention and early
intervention programs focus on children and adolescents, given that substance
misuse early in life increases the chance an individual will develop an SUD. The National Institute on
Drug Abuse developed a brief, Preventing
Drug Use among Children and Adolescents, which describes approaches that communities can implement to
prevent drug misuse among children and adolescents. These prevention programs focus on strengthening
protective factors and reducing risk factors.
Some SUD prevention strategies are still being tested. For example, in March 2016, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the CDC
Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for
Chronic Pain, which summarizes the risks and benefits associated with prescription opioids and
provides an evidence-based guide for providers and patients in shared decision-making about the use
of prescription opioids. The guidelines aim to stop over-prescribing of opioids to prevent opioid use
disorder. Future research will indicate the effectiveness of prescribing guidelines on rates of SUD.
There is no “best mix” of universal, selective, and indicated programs for a given population. While
many SUD prevention programs have shown evidence of success, not all programs have been tested in
rural populations. In addition, few prevention programs have been tested for use in workplaces or
among older adults.
Models in this section: