Community-based prevention programs in the war on drugs: Findings from the "fighting back" demonstration

Leonard Saxe, Charles Kadushin, Elizabeth Tighe, Andrew A. Beveridge, David Livert, Archie Brodsky, David Rindskopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Illegal drug use remains one of the United States' most serious health problems, and the "War on Drugs" continues without an end in sight. Antidrug programs, which offer the potential to reduce substance abuse problems, are a component of efforts to deal with the problem, but they operate absent adequate scientific analysis. Although policy has shifted from a focus on supply control to one that includes prevention and treatment, research and theory lag behind program implementation. Thus, for example, community-based programs designed to change norms and systems of substance use have been widely promoted despite the lack of data to support their use. The present paper summarizes findings from an evaluation of a large national demonstration program, "Fighting Back." Results of the evaluation of broad-based community initiatives in a dozen communities show that the programs failed to reduce rates of substance use and associated harms. These findings, along with other evidence, place reliance on community-based programs at odds with public rhetoric. To deal more effectively with substance abuse, there is a need to move from "grading" programs to understanding why and how interventions function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-293
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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