At Mentor, we advocate for prevention programmes that have been proven by hard evidence to improve young people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to alcohol and drugs and to keep them engaged in education, training, volunteering and work.
Why we focus on prevention
The social and economic consequences of drink and drug misuse are huge. Public Health England estimates that drug and alcohol harm costs the UK £36.4 billion every year – including £4 billion in NHS costs alone – with each individual problematic drug user costing the state an estimated £827,000 over the course of their lifetime.
Yet we barely spend anything trying to prevent this catastrophe. The NHS spends only 4% of its total budget on preventing ill health. NICE estimated in 2009 that a national alcohol prevention programme in schools reducing young people’s alcohol consumption by as little as 1.4% would be a cost-effective public health intervention – but we continue not to invest in effective health education.
This flies in the face of what evidence suggests our priorities should be; for each year during adolescence a young person doesn’t drink alcohol, they are 10% less likely to misuse alcohol as an adult. Delaying the age when teenagers start to drink means their prospects are happier, wealthier and healthier. They are more likely to do well at school and to stay in education, improving their career options.
The long term effects of alcohol and drugs on health and well-being are widely publicised, but there are many more immediate impacts. For example:
- 15-year olds who drink once or twice a week are likely to score significantly lower at GCSE – the difference between A* and E.
- In neighbourhoods where drugs are readily available, the anti-social consequences for individuals, families and communities are obvious.
“Evidence-based practice” – meaning “best practice” or “with well-supported evidence” – is a crucial element in policy development and the implementation of programmes in the prevention field. When selecting prevention programmes for young people, policy makers, practitioners and health and education professionals need easy access to reliable and independently validated information.
Mentor advocates for programmes that have been proven by hard evidence to change young people’s attitudes and behaviour to alcohol and drugs and to (re)engage them in education, training volunteering and work.