There is now a new national policy commitment to prevent alcohol and addictive substance abuse. With it, emerging approaches help in preventing youthful experimentation of mind-altering substances from progressing into mental health crises. The new muscle behind the prevention/intervention message comes from the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General’s report on Alcohol, Drug and Health, Facing Addiction in America. It not only declares preventing use from escalating to a level of abuse, but it emphasizes that prevention works. “Evidence based interventions (EBIs) have a 40-60% success rate in terms of reducing the onset of addiction and associated behaviors,” says A. Thomas McLellan, Ph. D., chair of the board and co-founder of Philadelphia’s Treatment Research Institute.
Prevention is also cost effective. While the report states that 1 in 4 who start using substances before age 18 become addicts, versus 1 in 25 who start after age 21, it also claims that EBIs provide a benefit of more than $58 for every dollar spent. EBIs have concrete advantages to help teens, yet only 8-10% of schools use them.
Gobi’s purpose and commitment is to offer early prevention and intervention for teens. We designed the program to incorporate best practices of intervention and treatment approaches: motivational enhancement strategies, cognitive-behavioral elements, and social learning theory. If, as the report claims, addiction is a preventable disease then making prevention a national mental health priority is exactly the right public health move.