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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
January/February 2009, Volume 17, Number 1 

Drug Free Communities: Preventing Teen Substance Use

Coalitions must include representatives from almost a dozen sectors: youth, parents, the business community, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement agencies, religious or fraternal organizations, civic and volunteer groups, health care professionals, and state, local, or tribal governmental agencies with expertise in the substance abuse field.

The coalitions are like flocks of geese, said Mr. Koscinski. “If an individual goose tried to fly from the outer reaches of Canada to South America, it would never make it,” he explained. “But when geese come together and fly in formation, they can fly farther.” Similarly, he said, police working alone aren’t enough. When they join forces with kids, parents, schools, and others, they can build on each other’s strengths and make an impact.

Various pictures of happy kids reading and playing soccer

Protective Factors

Young people themselves play a critical role in the program, emphasized Mr. Koscinski. “Kids are part of both the problem and the solution,” he said, noting that young people know what will work best to keep their peers away from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

Getting young people involved also is a protective factor in itself for both those involved and those who see that young person as a role model, he added. “To have kids at the table with the school board president, the police chief, and all the other players in a community gives them leadership opportunities,” he said. “They don’t have to be part of a norm that says drug and alcohol use is okay.”

The National Community Anti-Drug Coalition Institute provides training and technical assistance to grantees. Founded in 2002, the institute is part of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, VA. Its work is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions.

In addition, the Drug Free Communities Mentoring program is preparing a new generation of coalitions.

Currently, 31 well-established Drug Free Communities grantees are serving as mentors to developing or newly formed coalitions that have not yet received a Drug Free Communities grant. “We’re building a critical mass of these coalitions,” said Mr. Koscinski.

Promising Results

So far, the coalition approach appears to be working quite well.

An ONDCP-funded interim evaluation shows that the program is effective in preventing substance use and abuse among teens. The evaluation compared data from Drug Free Communities grantees to national data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which includes a national school-based survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), plus surveys conducted by state, territorial, tribal, and local education and health agencies.

According to the analysis, the number of high school students who report having used alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana in the last month is significantly lower in coalition communities than the national average.

The current use rates in Drug Free Communities areas declined between 2006 and 2007. And while drug use among teens has been declining across the Nation as a whole, it’s dropping faster in communities with Drug Free Community coalitions.

The evaluation included additional findings:

  • Alcohol use. Average youth alcohol use in coalition communities is more than 23 percent lower than the national average.
  • Tobacco use. Annual tobacco use is 10 percent lower in coalition communities than the national average.
  • Marijuana use. Current marijuana use among high schoolers in coalition communities is almost 10 percent lower than the reported national average.

“At a glance, you can see that these numbers show the effectiveness of the Drug Free Communities program. Each community’s efforts are a step in the right direction,” said Ms. Harding.

For more information, visit the Drug Free Communities Web site.

Coalition Resources

For more information on SAMHSA’s substance abuse prevention efforts, visit SAMHSA’s Web site or Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Visit the 2009 Drug Free Communities funding announcement.

For related information, visit the following Web sites:






  New Tools for the Field  
Drug-Free Workplaces: Cost-Effective Help

Drug-Free Workplaces: Cost-Effective Help

Fourteen new informational briefs can help employers address substance use problems.

Helping People with Mental Illness Live in the Community

Helping People with Mental Illness Live in the Community

Build and strengthen an Assertive Community Treatment team using a new toolkit.

TIP 48: Managing Depressive Symptoms

Managing Depressive Symptoms

Depressive symptoms can interfere with your clients’ recovery and ability to participate in treatment.


  Special Populations  
Older Adults & Substance Abuse

Older Adults & Substance Abuse

Think drug abuse is just a problem among adolescents and college kids? Many adults age 50 and older report substance abuse.


  Suicide Prevention  
Substance Abuse & Suicide: Connection Explored

Substance Abuse & Suicide: Connection Explored

Substance abuse is a major risk factor for suicide. Experts weigh in on how to address the problem.

Lifeline Partners with YouTube

Lifeline Partners with YouTube

What do you do if you think someone on YouTube may be at risk for suicide?

Dr. Phil Promotes Lifeline on YouTube

SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline took center stage when it was promoted as a resource on “Dr. Phil.”


  Recovery  
2009’s Recovery Month Web Site Launched

2009’s Recovery Month Web Site Launched

Recovery Month celebrates its 20th year in September!


  Trends and Data  
Youth & Substance Abuse: 5-Year Changes

Youth & Substance Abuse: 5-Year Changes

Youth show declines in cigarette, alcohol, and illicit drug use from 2002 to 2007.

Marijuana & Adolescents

Marijuana & Adolescents

There’s a connection between use of marijuana by young people and their perceptions of how risky that use may be.

Serious Psychological Distress

Serious Psychological Distress

In 2007, 24.3 million adults age 18 or older experienced past-year serious psychological distress.


  Also In This Issue  
Web 2.0 & Homelessness Resource Center

Web 2.0 & Homelessness Resource Center

Tune in to the new monthly Webcast series and share your opinions about things you read.

Introducing Our Print Redesign

Introducing Our Print Redesign

SAMHSA News in print has a whole new look! Find out what we changed and why.



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