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New online guide stresses importance of preventing substance abuse in early childhood years

Published: Mar. 14, 2016 at 3:48 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2016 at 5:23 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Keeping children away from drugs and alcohol is a top concern for many parents. And while many people may think of this as a risk mostly in the teen years, a new online guide, authored by a University of Alabama professor, stresses the importance of preventing substance abuse in the early childhood years.

Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, who is now Associate Dean for Research at UA's College of Human Environmental Sciences, developed the online guide while she was working with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The guide outlines seven principles of substance abuse prevention, from the pre-natal stage through age eight. In developing the guide, Robertson reviewed a great volume of research on the topic. Her main finding was that focusing on substance abuse prevention very early, can have benefits for decades to come, even on other aspects of a child's life.

"The overarching principle is that by intervening early, you can really change the life course trajectory of a child in a positive direction," Robertson said. "So you can take a child, a family, a struggling mother, and help them to really reorient the life, that then years and years later, have positive effects."

Robertson said one of the goals of the online guide is to provide this information in a way that is accessible to people who can use it most.

"To take this huge body of literature and boil it down to the essential messages, so that the people who are the main beneficiaries of this, parents, teachers, community leaders, can understand it."

Robertson also said a number of different types of programs play a role in preventing substance abuse, starting at an early age. This includes programs that teach mothers how to best care for themselves during pregnancy, help parents manage difficult behaviors in young children, help children and parents transition to elementary school, and more.

Read the entire online guide here: drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-substance-abuse-prevention-early-childhood/index

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