Combating Youth Prescription Drug Use through Coalitions

This past year, the Concho Valley C.A.R.E.S. Coalition, a Drug-Free Community (DFC) in San Angelo, Texas, pioneered a prescription drug campaign called: Mix it, Seal it, Trash it. The aim of the campaign was to inform adults about the proper procedures for the disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs, which would help prevent youth substance use. So far, the campaign has added two prescription collection units and conducted two prescription drug take back projects.

The Concho Valley Coalition is one example of the many ways that DFC coalitions have been taking the lead nationwide in implementing innovative strategies and activities to reduce the misuse of prescription drugs, particularly among youth.

In the Drug-Free Community Support Program’s 2014 National Evaluation, we see positive changes in middle and high school youth’s use and perception of prescription drugs. In addition, we can see the progress being made on youth’s use and perception of other substances such as alcohol and tobacco.

The report shows that across the 618 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) in FY 2013, there are promising results for middle school and high school youth substance use and perception, including

* A significant decrease in past 30-day use for alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drugs among middle school and high school youth;

* An increase in the percentage of survey respondents who reported that regular use of tobacco, alcohol, or prescription drugs has moderate or great risk;

* An increase in the perception of peer disapproval among middle school students in each of the four substance areas, and for high school students in each substance except marijuana.

* An increase in perception of parent disapproval for each of the substance areas, with the exception of marijuana among high school youth.

It’s clear that coalitions can play an important role in preventing youth substance use. By using a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that engages not only youth, but also parents, teachers, law enforcement, and healthcare providers, these coalitions are helping to protect our nation’s greatest resource: young people.

Michael Botticelli is the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gen. Arthur Dean is CADCA’s Chairman and CEO.