In this paper, we describe the overall aims of substance use prevention and introduce a standard wording to describe the work carried out in this area. An increasing body of scientific research supports including drug prevention activities as part of wider strategies to promote healthy development and well-being. The paper recommends that those working in the prevention field should be encouraged to use a common language to help make prevention strategies more coherent.
The paper also details how prevention activities impact on outcomes for substance users. The ACMD recommends that authorities commissioning prevention programmes should bear in mind that drug and substance use prevention should be part of a more general strategy supporting all aspects of users’ lives.
The ACMD regards evaluation an important part of any prevention project as international evidence suggests many popular types of prevention activity are ineffective at changing behaviour, and a small number may even increase the risks for drug use. Research funders and charities should support high-quality evaluation research, especially economic evaluation.
We further recommend that policy-makers should be aware that it is possible to reduce adverse long-term health and social outcomes through prevention interventions, even for individuals who are not persuaded to abstain entirely from the use of drugs.