Various events can prompt people/a community to take action. Local concerns about alcohol being available to middle school youth is somewhat different from the problems posed by meth production in rural barns. But both take the community to pull together to establish a solution.

There are several broad prevention strategies that apply to most most alcohol/tobacco and drug use/abuse problems. Ongoing community planning, implementation, evaluation and plan adjustments is a key element. If there are no organizations in your area to address the situation, meeting with the PTA or Law Enforcement or your church group may be the way to begin to discuss and plan.

The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) has identified six strategies that can help shape your community prevention plans:

  1. INFORMATION DISSEMINATION increases knowledge and changes attitudes through communications. This method of learning is mainly one way, such as media campaigns, class room speakers, handout materials.
  2. PREVENTION EDUCATION is a two way approach to teaching participants important social skills. These skills can include resisting pressure to use drugs, looking at the intent behind advertising, or developing other skills used in making healthy choices.
  3. POSITIVE ALTERNATIVES provide fun, challenging, and structured activities with supervision so people have constructive and healthy ways to enjoy free time and learn new skills. These alcohol and drug free activities help people, especially young people, both stay away from situations that encourage use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs but also ingrain in them the ability to enjoy activities without such substances.
  4. ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGIES are aimed at the settings and conditions in which people live, work and socialize. These strategies call for changes in policies… to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors. For example; tighter zoning restrictions on alcohol outlets or stronger enforcement to prevent underage purchases of alcohol and/or tobacco products. As these changes are carried out at the community level, they can have a sweeping impact.
  5. IDENTIFIATION OF PROBLEMS AND REFERRAL SERVICES determine when the behavior of persons who are at high risk or who may have started using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs can be reversed through education or intervention.
  6. COMMUNITY BASED PROCESS aims to enhance the ability of the community to more effectively provide prevention and treatment services for substance abuse disorders. Activities in this strategy include organizing, planning, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of services implementation, interagency collaboration, coalition building and networking.

Combining prevention strategies usually improves results. For example, enforcing the legal age required to purchase alcohol and tobacco products while providing positive activities can both be reinforced by school based drug education. That combination an do a better job of prevention substance use that any of the strategies alone.

Prevention that blends life skills training with mentoring and with activities to increase parent involvement can be more effective for youth at high risk for using alcohol and other drugs than only life skills education.


Whatever prevention strategy a community selects, a few practical suggestions an help put it to work.


Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use issues are too serious and resources are too valuable to take a chance on unproven strategies for prevention.

To get it right the first time, chose a strategy that has been shown, through solid research, to produce results like the ones you want to achieve. Look for strategies that have succeeded in situations like the one you want to address.

For information on strategies and success, check out our model programs page.