Starting at Home — Family-based Interventions Prevent Youth Substance Use

By Amy Lansky, PhD, MPH, director of the Office of Scientific Evidence and Recommendations, Office of Science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH, director of the Division of Overdose Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC

Youth substance use is associated with increased risk for delinquency; academic underachievement; teen pregnancy; sexually transmitted infections; perpetration of, or experience with, violence; injuries; and mental health problems. Youth, parents, and families are key sectors involved in the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program, the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use. Preventing or delaying substance use initiation among youth reduces later risk for substance use, substance use disorders, and overdose.  The need for prevention is vital and early intervention is critical for youth. 

Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) Recommendations

Based on a comprehensive review of the science, CPSTF recommends family-based interventions to prevent substance use among youth. Recommended family-based interventions include small group sessions, web-based modules, and workbooks delivered by health professionals or trained providers.  Evidence from a systematic review of 60 studies shows these interventions reduce initiation and use of cannabis, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances among youth as well as initiation and misuse of prescription drugs. Studies also report reductions in sexual risk behaviors among youth and improvements in mental health symptoms and school-related outcomes.   

These family-based interventions teach parents and caregivers to enhance their children’s substance use preventive skills and practices. Content may address parent-child communication, rule setting, and monitoring, and interventions may include additional substance use prevention activities for youth. 

Achieving Healthy People 2030 Objectives

Decision-makers can use this CPSTF recommendation to prevent youth substance use and drive progress toward relevant Healthy People 2030 objectives. This intervention will join the list of existing evidence-based resources related to drug and alcohol use.  

Additional Resources

Explore these resources and share them with local decision-makers:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Learn about related CPSTF recommendations:

For the latest data estimates on substance use and mental illness at the national, state, and substate levels, we encourage you to explore the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Stay Up to Date

CPSTF has more than 250 active recommendations and findings across 22 public health topics that cover a range of health issues. 

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington (DC): HHS, 2016. Available from URL: Accessed 7/31/23. 

Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), The Community Guide. Substance Use: Family-based Interventions to Prevent Substance Use Among Youth. Available from URL:

Categories: Blog, Healthy People in Action

Related Healthy People 2030 topics: