The existence of school programs, such as D.A.R.E., which are aimed at drug prevention, are evidence that there is a recognized drug problem with young people. Also, the fact that prison populations are increasing their capacities to hold non-violent offenders, but instead, convicted drug users, is evidence that the prevention programs may not be sufficient to address the drug problem in the younger generation. This essay finds that because the prevalence of drug use is not on the decline, and that prevention programs are inadequate measures to prevent future prison populations filled with convicted drug users. Therefore, drug prevention programs must modify their educative approach in order to reach more adolescents. If prevention programs are effective, then future prison populations of drug users will be reduced. It is possible that the current model for prevention programs is not making the right impression on adolescents.
It is likely that drug use starts at an early age. Possibly, an adolescent is curious about drugs, or simply uses drugs because others are using drugs. The element of peer pressure on an adolescent’s choices is magnified over that of young adults. The impressionability factor may be what causes more adolescents to choose experimentation with drugs over young adults: “From person to person, there is great variability in patterns of substance use and abuse. Some individuals face life-long struggles with addiction…According to national datasets, the prevalence of…drug use increases rapidly from early to late adolescence, peaks during the transition to young adulthood, and declines though the remainder of adulthood.” (Griffin and Botvin). Young adults have a better self-conception and have established an identity that is not swayed as easily as an adolescent’s identity.

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Furthermore, once drug use has been experimented with it is more likely that the individual will continue to experiment: “The 2010 survey indicated that daily marijuana use among high school seniors has increased to its highest point in 30 years. In fact, daily marijuana use among adolescents [is at its highest point].” (Winters, Botzet, and Fahnhorst). The conception of the 60’s and 70’s as being the drug age seems misplaced with this statistic. Prevention programs are critical in order to discontinue this upward trend. It seems counterintuitive that drug use would be rising when education is improving. However, one should consider that the array of drugs has expanded since the 60’s and 70’s. Regardless, it appears that marijuana has remained the drug of choice for teens across all decades.

An immediate way to improve prevention programs is to branch out the initiative to more than just law enforcement: “Clinicians who work with youths should receive formal training in either medical school or residency in the assessment of substance use and use disorders, and master at least one screen and one comprehensive assessment instrument.” (Winters, and Kaminer). It would make a big difference to have a medical analysis involved in the program. Instead of having only law enforcement officers instructing prevention programs, it makes a lot of sense that adolescents might respond better to authority figures who have medical scholarly knowledge, rather than punitive objectives.

Therefore, in order to better effect a positive change on the growing problem of adolescent drug use, it is necessary to modify and improve prevention education. Opponents of this argument will assert that prevention is futile and the programs would be a wasted financial effort. However, this is not the case. An adolescent’s mind is impressionable. It is therefore necessary for the prevention program to make the right impression. Possibly, the law-enforcement impression has not been an effective method for drug prevention programs. However, after considering the above evidence and arguments, the reader should agree that a medically driven approach could be effective.

  • Griffin, Kenneth W., and Gilbert J. Botvin. “Evidence-Based Interventions for Preventing Substance Use Disorders in Adolescents.” Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America 19.3, 505–526. PMC, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
  • Winters, Ken C., Andria M. Botzet, and Tamara Fahnhorst. “Advances in Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment.” Current psychiatry reports 13.5, 416–421. PMC, 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
  • Winters, Ken C., and Yifrah Kaminer. “Screening and Assessing Adolescent Substance Use Disorders in Clinical Populations.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 47.7, 740–744. PMC,2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.