Drug Abuse Prevention: School-based Strategies That Work
Date: July, 1997
Author: Bosworth, Kris
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education
ERIC Identifier: ED409316
Use of alcohol,
tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) is common in adolescence.
According to an annual survey of high school students, their use
of alcohol has remained consistently high for the past 20 years,
with about 81% of seniors in 1995 reporting having drunk alcohol
at least once in their lives and a little over half (51.3%)
reporting alcohol use at least once in the past month. Prior to
1991, use of tobacco and illicit drugs (i.e., marijuana,
crack/cocaine, stimulants, inhalants, LSD, heroin) had been
decreasing since the peak levels in the late 1970s. Since 1991,
however, these rates have increased steadily. In 1995, 39% of
seniors reported they had used an illicit drug at least once,
whereas in 1991, 29.4% reported ever using an illicit drug. Using
a survey timeframe of the past 30 days, 23.8 % report using one
drug in 1995, up from 16.4% in 1991. This increase in use is
coupled with a decrease in the belief that drugs are harmful. For
example, in 1991, 79% of seniors thought that regular marijuana
users were at great risk for harm; only 61% felt that way in 1995.
Since a belief in the harmfulness of a drug has been shown to be
an important deterrent to use, the sharp decline in the belief in
the harmfulness of marijuana adds urgency to ATOD prevention
efforts (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1996).
OF THE SCHOOLS IN PREVENTION
For the past two
decades, significant public and private resources have been
allocated to prevent youth from using alcohol, tobacco, and other
drugs, and from this effort research has identified effective
prevention strategies. Thus, 20 years of prevention research and
evaluation places educators and other concerned adults in a
position to intervene to counter the trend of increased ATOD use
by adolescents (Sussman & Johnson, 1996; Tobler and Stratton,
1997; Duesnbury & Falco, 1995; Hansen, 1992). Since most ATOD use
begins before the age of 20, schools are the primary institution
with access to this age group. Additionally, the most common
prevention strategy has been education, which is compatible with
schools' goals (Dryfoos, 1990).
research is far from conclusive, there is evidence that some
strategies are ineffective. Scare tactics, providing only
information on drugs and their effects, self-esteem building,
values clarification, large assemblies, and didactic presentation
of material have not been shown to be particularly effective in
the prevention of ATOD use (Tobler & Stratton, 1997).
have been shown to have positive results. No one intervention will
be able to prevent use and abuse of drugs for everyone but studies
indicate characteristics of curricula and programs necessary for
Because the majority
of youth experiment with substances, particularly alcohol and
tobacco, ATOD prevention needs to target all students. Since risk
factors are present years before initiation, prevention activities
must start in elementary school and be periodically reinforced as
students encounter new social situations and pressures to use
substances. Programs designed to meet developmental needs of the
students should be offered at each grade level without
oversaturating students to the point they discount the
ABUSE PREVENTION CURRICULUM CONTENT
identified that prevention programs need to be comprehensive and
have sufficient intensity to reasonably expect that the skills can
be taught (Sussman & Johnson, 1996). Content areas that are
necessary for an effective curriculum include:
education. Helps students realize that use of ATOD is not the norm
for teenagers. Students generally overestimate the proportion of
their peers actively involved in ATOD. Hence, it is easier to be
pressured by the myth that "everybody is doing it." Student
surveys and opinion polls are used to help students understand
actual use rates.
Improving verbal skills may help students increase their ease in
handling social situations. Decision making, communication skills,
and assertiveness skills are particularly important during the
late elementary and middle school years when puberty changes
social dynamics between young people themselves as well as with
the adults in their lives.
Helps students recognize external pressure (e.g., advertising,
role models, peer attitudes) to use ATOD and to develop the
cognitive skills to resist such pressures.
Helps students understand the risks and short- and long-term
consequences of ATOD use. The message must come from a credible
source and be reinforced in multiple settings.
Supports and encourages the development of positive aspects of
life such as helping, caring, goal setting, and challenging
students to live up to their potential and facilitating
affiliations with positive peers (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller,
Learning ways to refuse ATOD effectively and still maintain
friendships was a strategy heavily relied on in many early
curricula. Recent research indicates that it is most relevant in
supporting teens who do not want to use drugs and in conjunction
with other activities such as social influences and normative
also has a critical influence on curriculum effectiveness.
Successful curricula rely on interactive techniques rather than on
lectures or other forms of one-way communication (Tobler &
Stratton, 1997). Role plays, simulations, Socratic questioning,
brainstorming, small group activities, cooperative learning, class
discussions, and service learning projects are strategies that
engage students in self-examination and learning (Bosworth &
Sailes, 1993). Refusal skills need to be practiced in the
classroom through role plays in the context of realistic settings
where ATOD might be offered. Videos and multimedia software that
are set in real-world environments can be used to provide models
of appropriate behavior and to stimulate discussion.
and school and classroom climate may also be preventive. Adults in
schools need to model the social, decision-making, and
communication skills taught in the curriculum. Setting high
expectations, open and supportive communication, a value of caring
and helping, and the creation of a positive environment may be as
important as curricula. Prevention messages can be integrated into
general curricula, and literature, movies, songs, or current
events that portray substance use/abuse can help students
understand social pressures and the personal consequences of ATOD
OF THE COMMUNITY
Because of the
complexity of the problem, coordination of prevention messages and
activities with other institutions in a youth's life is essential.
The community, not the school, is where most teen ATOD use occurs.
Schools must be actively involved in planning and coordinating
community-wide activities that develop and strengthen
anti-drug-use norms in the community and family as well as among
peers, including public policy, media-created awareness, advocacy,
and enforcement. Communities can be active in changing and
supporting non-use-norms and reinforcing messages given at school.
Many curricula have suggestions for integrating parent activities
and information sharing (Aguire-Molina & Gorman, 1996).
IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHER EDUCATION
prevention research into classroom practice requires that teachers
have the motivation, knowledge, and skills to be effective
implementers of ATOD prevention curriculum, create positive and
intellectually stimulating classrooms, and be willing to support
and work on community prevention efforts. Many of the following
suggestions can complement content that is already an integral
part of teacher preparation.
If teachers are to
present a prevention curriculum, they must understand the serious
consequences of ATOD use during the teen years, particularly for
young adolescents. Teachers should examine their own ATOD history
and current use patterns to identify any bias they may
unintentionally convey to students that would contradict the
message of the ATOD prevention program. In addition, teachers
should be able to counter student remarks that glamorize or
minimize the consequences of drug use. Therefore, teacher
education needs to provide preservice teachers with statistics on
use rates as well as information on predictor variables, mediating
factors, and prevention strategies.
techniques used in ATOD curricula can be used with almost any
classroom subject. Both current teachers and teachers in training
need exposure to and practice in a variety of such techniques. The
regular use of interactive strategies in all content areas will
help to increase student involvement in learning, which has an
impact on protective factors.
Teachers should be
familiar enough with research-based prevention to be able to make
informed choices about curricula and other programs. Several
guides to effective curricula and programs are available to
facilitate selection (Dusenbury, 1996; Bosworth, 1996).Teachers
must request information about outcome results and select programs
that work, rather than slick but ineffective programs.
identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in
the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at
most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can
also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service
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Gorman, D. (1996). Community-based approaches for the prevention
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(1996). Making the grade: A guide to school drug prevention
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Dusenbury, L., &
Falco, M. (1995). Eleven components of effective drug abuse
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Hansen, W. (1992).
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Catalano, R., & Miller, J. (1992). Risk and protective factors for
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adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention.
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Johnston, L. D.,
O'Malley, P., & Bachman, J. (1996). National survey results on
drug use from the Monitoring the Future study, 1975-1995. Volume
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Drug Abuse, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sussman, S., &
Johnson, C. (Eds). (1996). Drug abuse prevention: Program and
research recommendations. American Behavioral Scientist, 39 (7).
Tobler, N., &
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programs: A meta-analysis of the research. Journal of Primary
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This publication was
prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and
Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract number
RR93002015. The opinions expressed in this report do not
necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the
Title: Drug Abuse Prevention: School-based Strategies That
Work. ERIC Digest.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information
Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC
Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Descriptors: Adolescents, Community Role, Curriculum
Design, Drug Abuse, Drug Education, Educational Strategies, Health
Promotion, Higher Education, Preservice Teacher Education,
Prevention, School Role, Secondary Education, Teacher Role
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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