about the harmful effects of psychoactive drugs is a vital part of preventive
education regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, but it will be
insufficient or counter productive unless it is:
with a clear "no-use" message,
appropriate (matched to the age and capabilities of the learner), and
of a larger, community-wide effort to establish and sustain drug-free norms.
prevention and education go hand in hand with strict drug law enforcement and
abstinence-based treatment. The
message must be clear and consistent: Drugs have a destructive impact on society
as well as on the individual. Drug
prevention education, treatment, law enforcement, and research are each needed
and mutually reinforcing components of effective anti-drug efforts.
In the U.S., the average cost to society of a heavy drug user is nearly
one million dollars during their lifetime, and every dollar spent on effective
prevention saves between four and five dollars in future treatment costs. Drug
prevention is the responsibility of everyone.
is a lifelong experience that involves every facet of our society.
Successful drug prevention education efforts speak with one voice and are
characterized by a universal and consistent message, supported by school,
community, and government policy, funding, and program implementation.
Using education as a universal tool, drug use is preventable. In the
U.S., history and research have shown that prevention efforts of the late 1960s
and early 1970s, which focused on "responsible use," had little or no
effect on deterring drug use. In
many cases, these mixed messages appear to have caused drug use to increase. When communicating about alcohol and other drugs, it is
crucial for the terminology of professionals in the field to be both clear and
consistent and include the "no-use" message to children and
the early 1980s, using the U.S. failures of the 1970s as a catalyst for change,
researchers began to develop curriculums that included both information and
skills building. A variety of programs incorporated this approach. Later, some
programs added media, parent, and community components and achieved positive,
sustained results. Research in the
late 1980s indicated that U.S. school curricula were best at increasing youth
knowledge about the harmful consequences of drug use, but attitudes about drug
use were more resistant to change. The
annual National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study by the University of
Michigan, "Monitoring the Future," has indicated that rates of youth
drug use are correlated with their perception of the risk of drug use and with
their perception of whether peers approve of drug use.
Beginning in 1992, both perception of risk and disapproval of use began
to decline, and a sudden rise in drug use took place.
the U.S., beginning with the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of
1986, both policy and funding centered on the harmfulness of drugs and the
"no-use" message. Comprehensive
school- and community-based programs were developed and implemented, and a
national prevention strategy evolved.
the 1990s, U.S. school-curriculum design has focused on programs that teach
personal behavior skills and information. Additionally,
studies on drug-education curricula have generally concluded that the best
programs combine school curricula with a comprehensive community approach that
includes parents, community programs, and media.
Thus, a comprehensive school and community effort, which recognizes that
all students are at risk for drug use, is most effective.
uniting theme of successful school and community prevention efforts is that
alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use is NOT the norm for adolescents, is NOT
glamorous, and is NOT supported by other youth or adults.
Continued universal support for a comprehensive "no-use" policy
and approach to education sends a clear social message that drug use is
dangerous, unhealthy, and illegal.
review of several large-scale meta-analyses of prevention programming funded by
the U. S. government in the 1990s has shown some general principles for positive
outcome. NIDA has published a list
of prevention principles for school-based programs, and the U.S. Department of
Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program has adopted its "Principles
of Effectiveness." In summary, they encompass the following:
good factual drug information
intensive with follow-up and booster lessons
a variety of age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate strategies
relevant; teach social competence and culturally relevant resistance skills
young people of the drug laws and legal consequences of drug use
anti-drug social norms
positive peer influence
pro-social bonding to school and community
multiple intervention strategies
adequate staff and parent training
parent and community components
should be supported by appropriate policy.
should have measurable goals and objectives, and program changes should be based
on evaluation outcomes.
educators have some appreciation of drug education, but few are currently aware
that school-based programs should provide continuing drug prevention education
for all students and staff that includes:
Prevention (no first use)
for recognizing media glamorization of ATOD use
Prevention (early intervention):
Prevention (follow-up and aftercare):
and community representatives often are not aware that the following "red
flags" are important indications of sub-standard practices in drug
of drug prevention.
of inappropriate guest speakers. Recovering
users are not appropriate speakers for elementary school students.
When using recovering speakers for older students, care should be taken
that their drug-using history emphasizes the loss and pain and does not glorify
their past and drug use, i.e., no "junkie pride."
together violent or drug-using students.
teaching how to use drugs under the guise of informing about drugs,
e.g., demonstrations of drugs and related paraphernalia.
the drug and violence epidemic.
students to report incidents with no assurance of support.
drug education with a clear no-use message is a moral imperative for children
and youth from any of three perspectives:
best interests of society
best interests of parents
best interests of children
as a whole has allowed the development of the current "mixed-message"
environment, in which alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are promoted by powerful
interest groups. It is in society's
best interest to lower youth drug use through a combination of effective
education and support for anti-drug norms.
can exert considerable influence at home, but they are more effective if their
drug-free message is supported in schools and in other important institutions
that influence youth. The media, in
particular, is a powerful force for either promoting the drug-free message or
giving misinformation that masks the reality of negative drug effects.
Most parents want drug-free youth, but they cannot achieve this alone.
absolutely deserve the best drug education that we can provide.
Although education alone is not sufficient to ensure they will not use
drugs, to fail to provide drug education in our current society (with its
ambivalent attitude about drug use) would be an act of extreme negligence.
Permission is granted to reproduce this article,
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Substance Abuse Education - a Meta-Analysis.
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