Substance abuse prevention involves helping individuals develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to make good choices. The use of drugs during childhood and adolescence has more potential to disrupt brain function in areas critical to motivation, memory, learning, judgment, and behavior control, because the brain is still developing during these periods. Substance abuse prevention programs in schools foster protective factors, such as school connectedness and positive peer relationships, which can help students avoid engaging in risky behaviors and help students learn skills important to promoting healthy choices, such as decision making, goal setting, self-management, and bystander intervention.
Substance abuse intervention involves helping individuals who are exhibiting signs of substance use or misuse. In schools, these interventions may include screening for substance use, motivational interviewing to enhance readiness for change, brief interventions to reduce risky or problematic substance use, and referral to specialized treatment. Specialized treatment may be provided in residential or outpatient settings, including in community-based settings like schools. Substance abuse interventions can include programs or supports intended to support students to enhance or maintain their recovery from substance misuse.