Breakthrough in Preventing Teen Drug Abuse

June 26, 2015

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.


Paulina Kalaj

Director, Communications & Media Relations


Free webinar: Learn grant-writing tips for the ‘Skills for Success’ Grant Competition

June 25, 2015

Recent research shows that students who graduate ready to succeed in college and careers have more than just academic skills. The most successful students pair cognitive skills with additional skills such as persisting through adversity, collaborating effectively and exercising self-discipline.

While we know that these additional skills are important, we want to learn more about the best ways to nurture them in our schools and classrooms. That’s why the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement announced an exciting new grant competition called Skills for Success.

They’re asking the nation’s most innovative education organizations, schools and districts to apply so that they can learn even more about how to give students these important skills. In particular, they’re focusing on middle grades – that time when students begin developing the habits and mindsets that they will take with them through life.

If you are part of an organization, school district or other team that’s working on giving middle school students all the skills they need to succeed, they would love to have you apply. Learn more.

Register for this free webinar for grant-writing tips:

Strategies for Incorporating LifeSkills Training into an Effective   2015 Skills for Success Program Grant Application

This informative webinar will explore successful grant-writing tips while incorporating the LifeSkills Training program into the US Department of Education’s Skills for Success application. Our goal is to help you be as informed as possible about the grant application process while supporting the inclusion of our program as a part of your comprehensive submission.

Duration: 30 minutes

Presenter: Pamela Werb, MEd, has been an LST trainer since 2001 and presented at national and international conferences. She graduated with a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Minnesota and is currently a clinical research consultant with the University of Minnesota Tobacco Use Research Center.

Register: Monday, June 29th at 3:30pm ET  Space is limited    

Skills for Success Program

Grant: The Skills for Success Program supports Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and their partners in implementing, evaluating, and refining tools and approaches for developing the non-cognitive skills of middle-grades students in order to increase student success. Grants provide funding for the implementation, evaluation, and refinement of existing tools and approaches that integrate the development of students’ non-cognitive skills into classroom-level activities and existing strategies designed to improve schools.

Funder: US Department of Education

Eligibility: Local educational agencies (LEAs), i.e., public school districts including charter schools that are considered LEAs under State law, and LEAs in partnership with a nonprofit, IHE or other LEAs

Estimated Available Funds: approximately $2,000,000 for FY2015

Deadline: 7/29/15

The need for prevention is now; Unleashing the Power of Prevention

June 24, 2015

Every day across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence take a heavy toll on millions of lives. These problems range from anxiety, depression and mental health problems, to poor eating habits and weight problems, to substance abuse, delinquency and violence. For decades the approach to these problems has been to treat them only after they’ve been identified—at a high and ongoing cost to young people, families, communities, and the entire nation. Now we have a 30-year body of research and more than 50 programs showing that behavioral health problems can be prevented.

LifeSkills Training is one such program. LST is a school-based prevention program designed to prevent behavioral health problems by promoting personal coping skills, general social skills, and information and attitudes related to specific health problems, and overall resilience. LST has been extensively tested and proven effective, with evidence of its effectiveness documented in over 32 peer-reviewed publications. This body of research shows that LST can prevent a wide range of behavioral health problems including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug abuse; aggression and violence; risky driving; and risk factors related to HIV/AIDS. LST is effective when delivered by different types of program providers, under different implementation conditions, and with different populations and age-groups. And, it produces prevention effects that can last from adolescence to well into young adulthood.

But LST is just one of a growing number of tested and effective programs that have emerged from more than three decades of scientific research. This critical mass of prevention science is converging with growing interest in prevention across health care, education, child psychiatry, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Together, we stand at the threshold of a new age of prevention.

The challenge now is to mobilize across disciplines and communities to unleash the power of prevention on a nationwide scale. A new group of prevention experts, the Coalition for the Promotion Behavioral Health, proposes a grand challenge that will advance the policies, programs, funding, and workforce preparation needed to promote behavioral health and prevent behavioral health problems among all young people—including those at greatest disadvantage or risk, from birth through age 24. Within a decade, we can reduce the incidence and prevalence of behavioral health problems in this population by 20 percent from current levels through widespread policies and programs that will serve millions and save billions. Prevention is the best investment we can make, and the time to make it is now.

Read two recent papers on Unleashing the Power of Prevention, prepared by the Coalition for the Promotion of Behavioral Health and published by the National Academy of Medicine. The first paper, Unleashing the Power of Prevention, is concise summary of the advances in prevention science, examples of successful prevention programs, and opportunities.

The second paper, A Challenge to Unleash the Power of Prevention, is a commentary and call to arms.

College Rape Prevention Program Proves a Rare Success

June 23, 2015

A trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a lowered risk of rape in college women who participated in an experimental sexual assault prevention program in Canada this past year.  This program addressed preventing sexual assault through a multifaceted approach, including defense skills, defining sexual boundaries, assessing and avoiding risky behavior like drugs and alcohol.

The study produced significant results: the risk of completed rape was lowered by 10 percent in the women who participated in the program, compared to 5 percent in the control group. Even more significant was the lowered risk of attempted rate in the resistance group–9.3%–compared to the 3.4% reduction in the control group.

This promising study highlighted key elements that are unique to other sexual assault prevention programs implemented at other colleges and universities at the moment. The program focused not only on education and prevention, but also on developing self-defense skills and increasing knowledge and awareness about acquaintance rape among other instances of sexual assault. However, there are arguments that the program focuses on helping potential victims avoid sexual assault rather than focusing on preventing perpetrators from attempting assault.

One important area that was focused on in this program was acquaintance rape and overcoming emotional barriers that victims of sexual violence face. Because the majority of sexual violence occurs between acquaintances, this program was successful because it focused on consent and helped college women understand how to maneuver social situations and use friends as bystanders.


Indoor E-Cigarette Vaping Banned in Albany County, NY

June 19, 2015

Legislatures in Albany County, New York voted on Monday to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in areas where cigarette smoking is already banned.  The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2003 banned cigarette smoking in most workplaces, including bars and restaurants, in the state of New York.  This new measure to ban e-cigarette usage still awaits the signature of County Executive Dan McCoy, who has already banned vaping in and around county buildings.  Cattaraugus, Lynbrook, Suffolk, and Tompkins counties in New York have already put in place the similar bans on e-cigarettes.

According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, electronic cigarette use has more than tripled among youths in the past year.  E-cigarettes are designed to allow users to inhale the vaporized nicotine liquid without any actual smoke.  This allows users to not have to worry about inhaling fumes from the papers of cigarettes and other toxic chemicals, which could be carcinogenic.  Although the safety risks of e-cigarettes are not fully researched, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes.  However, they still contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance, and users can suffer from withdrawal symptoms after quitting e-cigarettes including feeling irritable, depressed, restless, and anxious.

There is also a concern that e-cigarettes could be a gateway drug that leads nonsmokers and kids to using tobacco cigarettes.  Some makers of e-cigarettes seem to be targeting younger audiences with flavored cartridges like vanilla or cherry.

University Tackles Sexual Assault Before The Parties Start

June 18, 2015

According to a National Public Radio broadcast, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience sexual assault or violence in their lifetimes, the most vulnerable time being associated with college life and the ages 18 to 25. The U.S. Department of Justice Policing Services found that college women are more at risk for sexual assault than women of the same age that are not in college, and estimated that 25% of college women have been victims of rape.

Sexual assault prevention has become an important issue for college and university campuses to stop ignoring and address directly. Especially for incoming students who have not yet become accustomed to campus culture, awareness and knowledge about sexual assault and violence is essential. As a result, many institutions have implemented a variety of prevention programs, such as conferences, workshops, online courses, and forums, in order to increase awareness about sexual violence and assault and to promote the role of the bystander.

At the University of New Hampshire, one such prevention approach includes an online seminar that is taken by incoming first-year students before arriving on campus. It is designed to stimulate discussions between students and their parents and family about sexual assault in order by providing talking points and online resources and statistics in order to anticipate potential situations and instances of vulnerability for students. In the year since its implementation, the university’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) has received two state awards, including the 2015 Presidents’ Leadership Award.

Another approach for preventing sexual violence is being developed by National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) through funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Based on the Botvin Lifeskills Training program, this sexual violence prevention program will focus on issues that tackle topics of sexual violence as well as related issues of drug and alcohol abuse and risky behavior. This “holistic” approach will encourage discussions and awareness about difficult topics and help college students develop life skills that will help them throughout their college years and beyond.

Learning from Life Skills Programs in Drug Education

June 17, 2015

Life skills education is an interactive process of teaching and learning, which is being adopted around the world as a means to empower young people in challenging situations and is the recommended approach to children and young people’s personal, social and health development within formal and informal education settings.

In particular, life skills are a group of psychosocial competencies and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathize with others, and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner.

1049036_10151688401005857_110993943_oThis paper focuses on two programs, LifeSkills Training and Unplugged, which have shown to be effective in RCTs at reducing drug use among young people. Many of the elements described below are shared with other programmes, but these two were chosen because of their strong evidence base. LifeSkills Training has been developed over three decades in the United States and is now widely used there. There are several programmes available. The elementary school and middle school programmes each take place over three years and are approximately equivalent to Key Stages 2 and 3 in the English and Welsh system. Shorter programmes are also available for older students.

Read the full paper here via LifeSkills Training: News Detail.

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