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How Does Prevention Science Help to Address Psychoactive Substance Use in the real world?

We have learned from 30 years of rigorous prevention science the answers to many questions in regard to issues such as the developmental nature of substance use, what role socialization plays in shaping our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, and why it is important for prevention professionals to understand the theoretical foundations of evidence-based prevention interventions. We will be looking at these and other topics in future Prevention Nuggets.

To answer today’s question, prevention science is a practice-oriented research endeavor, similar to psychology and medicine, so its prime focus is on understanding problem behaviors and intervening effectively. The purpose is to find the methods and strategies that can be used by practitioners to promote healthy behaviors, prevent psychoactive substance use initiation and engagement in other risk behaviors, and intervene to prevent the consequences of continued use. So as the graphic depicts—practice is an essential element in research, and research is an essential element for practice.

Also, the focus of Prevention Science is on greater understanding of the basic elements of problem behaviors so effective interventions can be developed and tested for practice. Scientists look at:

1. The determinants of behaviors that protect or put at risk the social, emotional, and physical health of individuals, families, communities.

2. The processes as to how these determinants operate.

3. The strategies that effectively intervene when trajectories are negative leading to risk behavior and reinforce those trajectories that are positive to promote healthy behavior.

So prevention science is very much focused on the real world concerns of prevention in the community. It is also important to note, prevention science is an evolving field, and will continue to study how best to intervene effectively.

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