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    Guide for Policymakers: Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment of Risky Substance Use and Addiction

    Addiction and risky substance use constitute the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in the U.S., totaling over $467 billion a year. Yet of every state and federal tax dollar spent on substance use and addiction, less than two cents goes toward prevention and treatment, while 96 cents goes toward addressing the consequences of our failure to prevent and treat the disease.


    In each of the reports, white papers, books, journal articles, editorials and blog posts that The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has published or disseminated over the years, a central theme has been to employ the most valid and reliable research findings available to identify practical and effective policies and practices. In this guide, we have compiled a comprehensive set of effective policies and practices that delineates specific actions for improving the prevention and treatment of risky substance use and addiction in the U.S. The guide also addresses important and emerging issues, including those related to:

    • Marijuana legalization
    • Alternative nicotine products
    • Medication-assisted treatment in the health care and justice systems
    • Health care, education and justice reform

    Recommendations and conclusions

    Effectively addressing addiction and risky substance use requires improvements in:

    • Prevention and early intervention
      • Prevent risky substance use through public education and awareness, school- and community-based programming, and effective regulations that reduce the availability, accessibility and appeal of addictive substances. Intervene early with those at risk via routine screening and therapeutic interventions
    • Treatment and disease management 
      • Provide effective treatment, disease management and support for those with addiction

    To accomplish these goals, policies and practices should be based on solid research evidence.

    Last Updated

    September 2023