The Role Played by Community Coalitions in Preventing Substance Abuse
Substance abuse occurs when an individual, for instance, a middle or high school student, starts the use of drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs in an excessive manner. For example, opioid overdose or misuse often occurs when a patient starts consuming more than the prescribed dose of medicine containing opioids. When an individual is in extreme pain, the doctor or medical practitioner might suggest opioid painkillers to reduce the suffering. However, it is easy for patients or their family members to take an extra dose every now and then, which may cause addiction.
When drug abuse or addiction to prescription drugs increases, it starts impacting the personal and professional life of the individual. This can include failure to complete work or school assignments, health problems, high mental stress, antisocial behavior, and falling grades.
It is believed that utilizing a single-target approach or various dedicated prevention programs is unlikely to produce the desired outcome of minimizing the risk of adolescent substance abuse. A community-oriented approach or community coalition is required for successful intervention.
Understanding Community Coalitions
The community coalition is a prevention program in which the members of a group or community come together to pursue a common goal. In terms of drug abuse, the members of the community strategize together to reduce the environmental factors that may increase the use of drugs, alcohol, or the wrongful use of prescription drugs.
Building a community coalition requires a strategic approach to achieving a common goal.
Need for Community Coalitions
Usually, the community coalition is formed on the basis of a responsibility shared by various individuals towards a specific issue or goal. In this case, it is the drug or substance abuse by students or young adults. The community coalition can include school authorities, teachers, parents, and students.
Five factors can influence a community coalition program. These are essential for reducing substance and drug abuse in youth and teenagers.
- Community readiness, which indicates the extent to which the members of a community are prepared to respond to a drug-related crisis. It assesses how much the community is willing to create an intervention so that drug abuse can be minimized among the younger generation.
- Rules and regulations define the restrictions placed on the availability of alcohol, drugs, and other addictive products in homes and at school. Reducing the availability of such substances near the school or at home can make a huge difference.
- The anti-drug regulations indicate the concerns raised by families and educational institutions to decrease or eliminate substance abuse. It also evaluates how a community coalition is working to increase local action in the elimination of substance use.
- Social factors include everyone around the students or youth such as peers, school authorities, family, community, etc. who can decrease or increase the pressure for the elimination or use of drugs and alcohol.
- Cultural identity is essential as it aims towards creating a sense of belonging or utilizing this sense of belonging to reduce substance abuse in youth.
Development of A Community Coalition Program
Evaluating the need for a community coalition program is necessary to analyze the end-goal of the program. When the people of a community come together for a cause, their aim or objective should lead in a single direction.
A few questions to assess and answer before the development of a community coalition program:
- What is the program trying to achieve?
- What would be the execution strategy?
- Which group will be impacted?
- Which group has a direct connection to the program? (Such as parents)
- How to maximize long-term impact or create a strong foundation?
People who should be involved in community coalitions for the prevention of substance abuse:
- The group that will be affected the most. Here, it is the youth or students of the community.
- The individuals directly involved in generating a community coalition such as school authorities and parents.
- Community leaders or influential individuals who can create a high-level impact through their community acceptance.
Components of Community Coalition
The first step to develop a community coalition strategy is checking the readiness of the community members. A proper assessment should be made to analyze how much the members of a community are willing to engage or participate in the cause, which is the prevention of substance abuse. As this activity involves reducing environmental factors that contribute to substance use, support from every member is needed. This support will help in shaping the following components – environmental change and school intervention.
2. Environmental Change
Environmental changes are known to increase the effectiveness of the intervention. Preparing the community to influence environmental factors is an essential task. The environmental factors that would be impacted are homes, schools, retail stores, alcohol stores, and other related entities. The community members should together decide the action that needs to be taken to reduce the availability of drugs, prescription medicines, alcohol, etc.
3. School Intervention
The community coalition, combined with school intervention, can increase the efficiency of the drug prevention program. Programs such as life skills training allow school authorities to educate youth on the negative outcomes of substance abuse, as well as the skills required to avoid drug-related peer pressure. Using fact-based data can reduce the use of alcohol, drugs, or the misuse of prescription drugs. For instance, encouraging strong decision-making and social skills can lead to large-scale prevention of substance abuse.
The community coalitions have to be developed according to the environmental setting and the end goal. Since the goal is to prevent substance abuse, individuals directly impacted by the problem should be included in the program. It is necessary to assess the results at regular intervals to analyze the efficacy of the initiative.