A group of seven teens relax outside of school.

If you’ve wondered if prevention programs can actually make a difference here is some encouraging news: new data show that more youth today have healthier behaviors than youth of 25 years ago. Data from the Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), shows that children are increasingly likely to make healthy choices.

The CDC uses the survey, which is conducted in schools across the nation, to monitor the health related behaviors of young people, including behaviors related to substance abuse. Over the last 25 years, data from the survey shows that rates of smoking among high school youth have fallen by 50 percent, and the use of alcohol has decreased by more than 25 percent among high school youth in the same time period. High-schoolers also report all-time lows for use of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The CDC notes that the decrease in reported heroin use and the stable rates of drug-related teen deaths suggests that the opioid epidemic is not currently hitting teens, which is good news for all who are working to mitigate the crisis. That said, the survey also studied prescription drug abuse for the first time in 2017, revealing that 14 percent of students reported that they had used prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription.

Clearly there is still work to be done. At 13 percent, the rate of vaping is high among teenagers, and this trend could increase the likelihood of young people trying cigarettes later in life.

Prevention specialists at Compass Mark know that prevention is not a one step process; it is a lifelong journey towards positive lifestyle choices and strong, healthy communities. As the survey suggests, effective and comprehensive prevention programs go a long way toward empowering young people to live healthy and productive lives.