A recently published study sheds new light on how to prevent teen drug abuse. It also provides new evidence that the conventional wisdom regarding the timing of prevention efforts may be wrong. The current study shows that, with the right program, it’s possible to cut high school drug abuse in half.
The results of this study are especially important because they challenge the prevailing wisdom that high school is too late a time to start prevention programs. This program offers a successful approach to helping teens not exposed to an effective prevention program at an earlier age.
The new study, published in the World Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows that an approach proven effective with elementary and middle school students also works with high school students. The study compared students attending schools assigned at random to either receive or not receive the Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST) high school program, which was adapted from the evidence-based LST Middle School program. The LST program prevents tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use by teaching students skills for coping with the challenges of life, reducing motivations to use drugs and engaging in unhealthy behaviors, and fostering overall resilience.
Researchers found that the LST high school program reduced drug abuse in teens. Compared to the non-LST control group, there were 52% fewer daily substance users in the LST group. The study shows that dramatic reductions in drug abuse are possible with high school students across different racial/ethnic groups and different parts of the country.
“These are very exciting findings. This study not only shows that it’s possible to cut drug abuse in half among high school students. It also shows that you can do so with a program delivered by classroom teachers who only need minimal specialized training. Since this kind of program is inexpensive and can be widely disseminated to schools across the country, it offers tremendous potential as a cost-effective approach to a major public health problem,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the LifeSkills Training program and professor emeritus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College.
The LifeSkills Training high school program is a highly interactive curriculum that teaches students skills that have been found to prevent substance use and violence. Rather than merely teaching information about the dangers of drug abuse, the LST program promotes healthy alternatives to risky behavior. Throughout the program, students develop strategies for making healthy decisions, reducing stress, and managing anger, as well as strengthening their communication skills and learning how to build healthy relationships. The program also helps students understand the consequences of substance use, risk-taking, and the influences of the media.
Director, Communications & Media Relations