In earlier sections, we’ve presented strategies to lift the burden of SUDs. But even the best strategies based on the best evidence available are operating without the answers to important questions. Those big unanswered questions are promising targets for research and innovation and can lead to some of the most exciting opportunities for philanthropy to make a lasting impact. High-impact targets include SUD prevention, better treatment, improved access to treatment, and reduced stigma.
For example, the importance of preventing SUDs among adolescents is undisputed. For that reason, there are hundreds of adolescent substance abuse prevention programs operating within schools and communities across the country. It’s a well-studied topic, with an extensive body of academic literature. And it’s a well-funded goal: in FY 2015 alone, the federal government allocated $1.3 billion for substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities. However, despite all of those efforts, much of what’s currently done in the name of SUD prevention isn’t effective in preventing substance use.
What does that mean for philanthropy? This is an area with a great deal of room for innovation. Given the potential benefit of effective prevention, even moderate progress can yield major social impact. Despite the prevention field’s limited success to date, funders interested in prevention are by no means flying blind. While the sector has not cracked the code on prevention, there are lessons learned and promising paths to pursue. A common theme is that they need more evidence of impact in different settings and for different populations before donors should consider replicating them widely.
In the following examples, we present promising targets for research and innovation, along with resources to help interested funders learn more about existing efforts they can build upon: