Improve Protective Factors to Reduce SUDs

From SAFE Solutions
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Introductory Paragraph

Many factors influence a person’s chance of developing a mental health or substance use disorder.  Prevention focuses on reducing those risk factors, and strengthening protective factors in order to reduce risk factors having a negative outcome. 

A key part of addressing the opioid crisis (and addiction in general) is to have a multi-faceted plan to reduce the factors that lead to people intentionally misusing medications or taking drugs and to increase the protective factors that reduce the likelihood of going down the path that leads to a Substance Use Disorder. 

Key Information

Creating positive factors to help prevent drug abuse is essential to any prevention effort. These factors effect children throughout every stage of their lives. Making sure to focus on these stages and the factors throughout them is something that is extremely important for prevention. Another important thing to take into account when thinking about protective factors is that they compound on each other, the development of a good relationship may lead to interest in extracurricular activities. According to some very effective protective factors include: Self-control, Parental monitoring, Academic competence, Anti-drug use policies, and Strong neighborhood attachment.[1]  These factors do not only apply to drug abuse as creating positive protective factors can help prevent mental illness which in turn can help prevent SUDs.

An assessment of risk and protective factors helps with knowing the best intervention.  Increasing protective factors helps with resiliency and prevention of SUDs.  SAMHSA [2]indicates applying the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) helps prevention professionals identify factors having the greatest impact on their target population.

The SAMHSA risk and protective factors guide is a resource providing information on risk and protective factors.  "Risk factors are characteristics at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precede and are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes. Protective factors are characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of negative outcomes or that reduce a risk factor’s impact. Protective factors may be seen as positive countering events. Some risk and protective factors are fixed: they don’t change over time. Other risk and protective factors are considered variable and can change over time."

Variable risk factors include income level, peer group, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and employment status.

Individual-level risk factors may include a person’s genetic predisposition to addiction or exposure to alcohol prenatally.

Individual-level protective factors might include positive self-image, self-control, or social competence

Below is a graph from Drug Abuse.Gov[3] on Risk and protective factors:

The risk and protective factors show how people are impacted, the domain which it occurs and prevention methods. 

Risk Factors                        Domain                Protective Factors

Early Aggressive Behavior     Individual             Self-Control

Lack of Parental Supervision Family                  Parental Monitoring

Substance Abuse                    Peer                    Academic Competence

Drug Availability                      School                 Anti-drug Use Policies

Poverty                                   Community          Strong Neighborhood Attachment

Per National Institute on Drug Abuse research has shown that the key risk periods for drug abuse are during major transitions in children’s lives. The first big transition for children is when they leave the security of the family and enter school. Later, when they advance from elementary school to middle school, they often experience new academic and social situations, such as learning to get along with a wider group of peers. It is at this stage—early adolescence—that children are likely to encounter drugs for the first time.[4]  These are key times to have awareness and look to turn to protective factors for prevention.

Relevant Research

Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: implications for substance abuse prevention[5]

Risk and Protective Factors for Adolescent Substance Use[6]  -A Review and Summary of the Research conducted by Prevention Research Committee for Behavioral Health (2006) Behavioral Health Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (2007) SPF/SIG Epidemiological Influences Workgroup* (2010)


Impactful Federal, State, and Local Policies

SAFE Solutions is an ever-growing platform. Currently limited information is readily available for this section. SAFE Project is dedicated to providing communities with the most relevant and innovative materials. We will continue to regularly monitor and make updates accordingly with community input and subject matter expert collaboration. Please check back soon.

Available Tools and Resources - fact sheet on risk factors and protective factors.[7] 

Protective Factors- Approaches in Child Welfare[8]

A Guide to SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (includes assessment of risk and protective factors)[9]

Substance Misuse Prevention for Young Adults- Evidence based resource guide[10] 



Promising Practices

Communities that Care[11]
CTC guides communities through a proven five-phase change process. Using prevention science as its base, CTC promotes healthy youth development, improves youth outcomes, and reduces problem behaviors. The foundation of CTC is the "Social Development Strategy."


25% less likely to have initiated delinquent behavior
32% less likely to have initiated the use of alcohol
33% less likely to have initiated cigarette use than control community youths

Search Institute[12]-Youth programs to make a difference including out of school time programs 

The Ohio Opioid Education Alliance provides information regarding risk and protective factors.[13]

The State of Ohio Start Talking [14] The state of Ohio is implementing a multi-faceted approach to address the current epidemic. Efforts include promoting public and professional education, ramp up enforcement and interdiction efforts on our highways, and expand treatment options and recovery supports so those struggling with addiction can get back onto their feet and into the workforce.