One of the goals of the City of Chicago’s Health Department is to develop ways to decrease teenage drug use. Since the number of adolescents who use illegal drugs is growing rapidly, new and innovative prevention methods must be experimented with in order to solve the problem. Approaching the issue of teenage drug use from Gerald Caplan’s prevention perspective will bring about the new and innovative results needed to effectively address this issue. Gerald Caplan (1964) is known as the individual who used the term prevention as a specific program in the mental health lexicon. According to Caplan, there are three distinct types of prevention; primary, secondary and tertiary. In this essay I will use the three main types of prevention as described by Caplan in the textbook Community Psychology – Linking Individuals and Communities to develop three prevention programs that the Health Department could use to address the issue of teenage drug use.
The first type of prevention to be addressed in this essay is primary prevention. The basic ideal behind this intervention is to stop the problem before it becomes a problem. At the primary level intervention is given to entire populations when they are not in need or distress. This is usually done to prevent the occurrence of new cases, especially when the problem is considered to be an epidemic. Before a problem or circumstance has the ability to cause harmful effects on a community, a community psychologist will take a proactive approach and intervene to reduce the chance of future difficulties. Another way to look at primary prevention is to consider it intervention given to all people in a particular setting regardless of the need for the intervention. Examples of primary prevention would be to vaccinate all children for polio and other common diseases even though the children have not shown any signs of the disease and may not have a particularly high chance of contracting these diseases. Similarly, a school may require that all graduating seniors students take a seminar that prepares them for the transition from high school to college. This is considered to be primary prevention especially if the community has had no known problems concerning a student’s transition from high school to college. Taking a look specifically at the core issue, which is teenage drug use in Chicago, I would suggest the following program to alleviate the problem at the primary prevention level. The Health Department could implement a drug awareness program called D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in the Chicago Public Schools to teach children about the physical, emotional and psychological dangers of drug use and importance of saying no to drugs. The targeted population would be young children and pre-teens between the ages of seven and twelve. Since the main concern of the Health Department are teenager, a community psychologist using the primary prevention model would want to lower the rate of new drug use by educating a population of non-user. Primary prevention would be a proactive step toward decreasing the actually number of teenager in Chicago who use drugs. By using a program such as D.A.R.E the Health Department can drastically reduce the number of incidents in which more teenagers experiment with using drugs since young children and pre-teens would have already been educated on the importance of saying no.
The next type of prevention to be addressed in this essay is secondary prevention. Secondary prevention is also called early intervention because the action is taken in populations showing the early signs of disorder of difficulty. It would be considered a secondary prevention method to put those graduating senior who have shown signs such as poor study habits, lack of time management and lack of maturity in a seminar the prepares them for the transition from high school to college. At the secondary prevention level, community psychologist have a standard to which “at risk” persons are identified as being predisposed to a particular problem of disorder. The main concern with this approach is the reliance on stereotypes in order to identify those individuals who need the assistance. There is also the potential to stigmatize individuals because with the secondary prevention method, community psychologist are placing labels on people who currently have no problem or disorder and may never develop the particular problem. While a program such as D.A.R.E extremely effective for kids who have never thought of using drugs, it would not be as effective at the secondary prevention level. As stated above, the targeted population at this level would be those persons who are at risk if becoming a drug abuser. A community psychologist may want to implement a mentoring program such as Big Brother Big Sister in which “at risk” youths could be pared with an adult who could be a positive influence. Those youth who would be considered “at risk” would meet a specific predetermined set of criteria that shows an increase likelihood of drug use in the future. Such factors may include being a member of a minority group e.g. African American or Latino, family income below the poverty line, minute gang involvement, academic difficulty and depression. When individual are identified as possessing two or more of the risk factors for drug abuse, they will be pared with a distinguished member of the community who can assert a positive influence over the life of the youth in an effort to steer them away from drug use as an adolescent. Secondary prevention focuses on early intervention and targeting specific populations that are at risk to problems such as drug abuse. The Chicago Health Department could benefit by using a mentoring program to sway the negative influence of drugs with the positive influence of caring members of the community.
The third and final prevention method as described by Caplan is tertiary prevention. At the tertiary level of prevention, the targeted populations are individuals who currently have the problem or disorder. The intentions of community psychologist who work with this method are to reduce the intensity and duration of the disorder. The goal is to prevent re-occurrences and additional complications. If an individual is currently a victim of drug abuse the Health Department may want to establish a program in which medical facilities and drug rehabilitation facilities are readily available within Chicago. Teacher, community members and families may need to be educated about how to deal with teenagers who use drug and conventional methods on how to persuade those individuals to seek help. Another aspect of this program may be counseling and educational assistance for those teenagers who need help staying off of drugs. The tertiary program may initially appear to be treatment oppose to prevention however, when a teenager is already addicted to drugs, preventing them from using drugs in not a logical option in itself. What we want to prevent, at this stage this the future re-occurrence of drug use once the individual is rehabilitated and the prevention of additional complications that come along with a drug program such as violent criminal activity or lose of health.
Finally I would like to take the opportunity to interject my personal opinion by recommending the specific prevention problem that I believe is best suited to solve the issue of teenage drug use in the Chicago land area. Drug use among teenagers in urban communities such as Chicago is a serious and complicated issue that would be impossible to solve by using one single method. Attacking the problem at multiple levels is the only way in which the Health Department would be able to progress toward a drug free adolescence population. While the primary prevention method is certainly important in educating young children about the dangers of drug use, 100 percent success cannot realistically be expected. Such methods as the secondary and tertiary prevention plans as described above should be in place as a safety net to prevent the escalation of additional problems in those teenagers who did not get the message. The primary prevention would be the ideal method since it is cost effective and eliminates the long-term effects that come along with drug use. The secondary method is also a good method because it can be used as a tool to intervene before an “at risk” youth develops a drug problem. The main problem with this of course it that all teenagers who decide to use drugs may not fit in the “at risk” categories and all those the fit the description may not ever experiment with drugs. The tertiary prevention model is extremely costly and maybe even inefficient due to the difficulties and struggles evolved with becoming a drug free person. However this option must be available for those who sincerely want to change their lives to not be neglected. As a result of examining all of the factors that must be addressed with all three types of prevention, I would suggest using a combination all the three as the most effective way of preventing drug use among teenagers in Chicago.
Since one of the goals of the City of Chicago’s Health Department is to develop ways to decrease teenage drug use, new and innovative prevention methods such as primary, secondary and tertiary prevention must be experimented with in order to solve the problem. At the primary level intervention is given to entire populations when they are not in need of it. Using a program such as D.A.R.E would effectively satisfy community psychologist at this level because it stops the problem before it becomes a problem. Secondary prevention is also called early intervention because the action is taken in populations showing the early signs of disorder of difficulty. At the secondary prevention level, community psychologist have a standard to which “at risk” persons are identified as being predisposed to a particular problem of disorder. The main concern with this approach is the reliance on stereotypes in order to identify those individuals who need the assistance. The tertiary program may initially appear to be treatment oppose to prevention however, at this stage the prevention is of future re-occurrence of drug use once the individual is rehabilitated and the prevention of additional complications. Together all three of these preventions models can be profoundly effective in decreasing drug use among adolescences.