Although parents have come together in productive ways concerning the general health, care and education of their children since the beginning of the 1900s, in the area of substance abuse prevention, what is known as the "Parent Movement" actually first began in the late 1970s. At that time parent action groups began forming in response to the then rapid increase of drug use among America's youth. "Recreational" drugs, especially marijuana, once limited to the counter-culture of the 1960s had become socially acceptable to a major portion of the population, and their use became widespread.

Many parents grew concerned about this epidemic and "responded by taking on the responsibility of educating neighbors and friends," (The American Prevention Movement, National Families In Action). Parents organized themselves into action groups and began reclaiming their communities by working to close shops that openly sold drug paraphernalia and by closing neighborhood crack houses. In effect, parents became the drug abuse prevention specialists of the 1980s, and the movement became known as the "Parent Movement."

Throughout the 1980s, as more and more parents were educated about the drug problem and determined to do whatever it took to help their young people stay drug free, trends in drug use among America's young people began going down. Simultaneously, as public awareness of the drug use problem increased, so did the demand for substance abuse prevention and education strategies. Parents across the United States began to advocate vigorously for prevention messages and services to be directed to youth and their families.

Parent and community groups grew both in size and in numbers. National parent groups such as National Families In Action (NFIA), National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth (later known as National Family Partnership, or NFP), Parent's Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE), and the American Council on Drug Education (ACDE), were organized. Many States launched parent initiatives. Parenting education programs began to include more substance abuse specific information.

Although the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) had prevention as part of their mission, the need for greater help at the Federal level became apparent and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created the U.S. Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (OSAP). Grants for substance abuse prevention programs and groups were awarded, support materials were generated and technical assistance was made available to parent action groups all over the country. Strong parent involvement coupled with increased funding made a powerful combination; drug use trends among America's youth went down.

Over the next decade, an erroneous attitude developed that the drug "war" was over. Consequently, the level of parent involvement in the struggle against substance abuse fell lower and lower, as did funding for substance abuse prevention efforts.

In the mid 1990s, drug use among America's youth once again began to climb. Substance abuse and related issues resurfaced as major societal concerns; parents were voting on legalization of marijuana and other drugs; underage drinking had become a "rite of passage" for young people.

Responding at the Federal level to the upward trend in drug use, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the leadership of Secretary Donna Shalala, created the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative (YSAPI). This initiative was designed as a complement to the first goal of the President's 1998 National Drug Control Strategy (a ten-year plan), which is to "Educate and enable America's youth to reject illegal drugs as well as the underage use of alcohol and tobacco."

Secretary Shalala designated the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as the lead agency for YSAPI. SAMHSA was charged with coordinating HHS programs and collaborating with other organizations to reverse the upward trend of alcohol, marijuana and illicit drug use among 12-17 year olds.

An important component of the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative, is the Parenting IS Prevention Project (PIPP). PIPP strengthens existing anti-drug programs for parents and families while expanding participation and regenerating enthusiasm for a national parenting effort by:
  • Providing information, referral and networking with parents and organizations regarding substance abuse prevention;
  • Maintaining an interactive web site at;
  • Identifying, assisting and mobilizing parents and other appropriate adults for youth substance abuse prevention;
  • Maintaining a Washington, DC area National Parent Networking Office and
  • Working with appropriate media to feature messages promoting parent focused youth substance abuse prevention.
Research tells us there are things parents can do to prevent a variety of risky behaviors among their kids, including drug use. The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, September 1997, found that students who reported close emotional ties with their families and parents were significantly less likely to engage in the use of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

Parents are our children's best line of defense against the loss of their right to a safe, drug free environment. With this in mind, there is an ongoing, comprehensive Federal effort to work with national and community parent and substance abuse prevention organizations all over America in mobilizing parents and revitalizing the parent movement.