Prevention is often the best medicine, not only for physical health, but also public health, according to researchers at Penn State and Iowa State University.
According to the researchers, young adults reduce their overall prescription drug misuse up to 65 percent if they are part of a community-based prevention effort while still in middle school.
The reduced substance use is significant considering the dramatic increase in prescription drug abuse, said Richard Spoth, director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State. The research, published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health, focused on programs designed to reduce the risk for substance misuse.
In a related study in a recent issue of Preventive Medicine, Penn State and Iowa State researchers found significant reduction rates for methamphetamine, marijuana, alcohol, cigarette and inhalant use. Teens and young adults also had better relationships with parents, improved life skills and few problem behaviors in general.
The research is part of a partnership between Iowa State and Penn State known as PROSPER -- Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience. PROSPER administers scientifically proven prevention programs in a community-based setting with the help of the extension systems in land grant universities.
"An important reason that the PROSPER programs are effective in reducing early substance use and conduct problems is that they are carefully timed to fit the needs of early adolescents and their parents," said Mark T. Greenberg, holder of the Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research.
The results are based on follow-up surveys that Spoth's and Greenberg's teams conducted with families and teens during the six years after the teens completed PROSPER. Researchers developed the prevention programs in the 1980s and 1990s to target specific age groups. Understanding when and why adolescents experiment with drugs is a key to PROSPER's success, according to the researchers.