Addiction Prevention - Israel Center on Addiction |

How can addiction be prevented?


Hundreds of thousands of men and women in Israel, including children and adolescents, suffer from addiction. It is one of the most common medical disorders in the world, causing significant physical and mental morbidity and mortality. Can it be prevented?

Indeed, the most effective intervention in any field of medicine, including addiction, is prevention. Prevention interventions for addiction are attainable and important, and fall into two main categories: primary prevention and secondary prevention.

Primary Prevention: Preventing engagement with addictive substances and behaviors

  The purpose of primary prevention is to reduce the availability of, and access to, addictive substances and behaviors, especially for adolescents. This is achieved by changing policies and social norms with regard to the consumption of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, as well as gambling, video games, and pornography, by means of, for example, education programs for children, parents and educators in school and community settings. A World Health Organization review indicates that programs that promote mental health and wellbeing among adolescents have the greatest potential to minimize their involvement with addictive substances and behaviors. These programs not only focus on the impact of these substances and behaviors, but also encourage the development of personal and interpersonal skills, such as fostering assertiveness and resistance to social pressures; improving communication and decision-making patterns; managing stress and anxiety; and promoting self-esteem. Promoting and building these social skills has been found to be effective in adolescent prevention programs. At the community and national levels, models that offer youth and adolescents a variety of sport, music, dance, art and other programs, including joint activities with parents (the “Icelandic model”), have been shown to help reduce the use of addictive substances. These models are based on the understanding that education programs on addiction are not sufficient – rather, the best prevention lies in emphasizing and offering youth good alternatives to addictive drugs and behaviors.  

Secondary Prevention: Preventing the transition from incidental use to addiction

  In cases where engagement with addictive substances or behaviors has already occurred, the goal of prevention is to reduce the risk that this engagement will become addictive. Secondary prevention focuses mainly on adolescents who have started using addictive substances and are in one of the following stages of use:

  • Experience (used a few times, out of curiosity or peer pressure)
  • Incidental use (usually unplanned and in social situations)
  • Permanent use
  • Addiction

  Of course, the more advanced the stage of use, the greater the risk of adverse effects. Thus, the goal of secondary prevention is to reduce the frequency of use, the amount of substance consumed, and the risk that incidental engagement with the addictive substance or behavior will become addictive.  


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