Drug & Alcohol Prevention Programs for Teens

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that research-based drug and alcohol prevention programs successfully deter kids from using drugs. “Over time,” NIDA indicates, “youth who participated in the programs had better outcomes than those who did not.” One goal of alcohol and drug prevention programs is to help the public understand what drives a teen to use drugs and how to prevent drug abuse and eventual addiction.

Project Towards No Drug Abuse

Project Towards No Drug Abuse (Project TND) was developed for two populations: It can be used as a “universal” program for all high school seniors, regardless of their level of risk. It can also be a “selective” program for teens at higher risk for psychosocial or behavior problems, targeting high school seniors with a record of failure in a school setting. These kids have already abused drugs and have behavioral problems.

The program’s goal is to rebuild teens’ interest in school and their own future. According to Steve Sussman, Ph.D., the program’s developer, Project TND focuses on students’ attitudes, beliefs, expectations and desires related to drug use. The program works on rebuilding social ties, self-control and developing social skills. Finally, it helps students learn how to make decisions that lead to behaviors that promote healthy living.

In twelve 50-minute classroom sessions, students engage in a primary activity that is highly interactive and discussion-based and that incorporates role playing. One activity has students explore the importance of listening and having an open mind. Students learn skills needed for effective communication. Stereotyping exercises teach awareness of a teen’s risk for giving in to a self-fulfilling prophecy and understanding the need to rebel against stereotyping and not abusing substances.

Project TND is effective for students of all ethnic backgrounds. It has been recognized by and received awards from a variety of institutions, including the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and the “Blueprints Project” of the Center for Delinquency Prevention at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a center for the study of violence prevention.

Guiding Good Choices

Guiding Good Choices is a universal program developed by Channing Bete Company, a company that develops programs for drug prevention, smoking cessation and school success. It’s a drug-prevention program that develops parents’ skills for reducing their children’s risk of using drugs and alcohol. This program focuses on teaching family management and communication skills to the parents of young teens. Unlike other programs, Guiding Good Choices trains parents to identify risk factors and to challenge kids' ideas about conforming, rebelling and experimentation.

In a four-year follow-up study published in the “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,” the program reduced current alcohol use by over 40 percent. It significantly reduced the development of depression in adolescents and also slowed the typical rate of substance abuse.

Guiding Good Choices was recognized as a Model Program (the highest distinction) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It was identified as a Model Program by the National Dropout Prevention Center. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention named it an Exemplary 1 Program.

Project Alert

Project Alert, developed by the Rand Corporation, has one simple goal: “Help kids realize that not everyone is doing drugs.” Rand developed Project Alert as a curriculum to motivate teens by giving them the skills they need to effectively resist negative behaviors and actions. The program uses videos, interactive teaching methods, group activities and intensive role-playing techniques. It’s a multi-year program that has been proven to curb or stall alcohol, cigarette and drug use, and risky sexual behavior. It is effective in schools with a variety of socioeconomic populations of both low- and high-risk students.

Results from field tests over a ten-year period showed a 38 percent reduction in marijuana use by moderate-risk kids; reduction in cigarette smoking and new smokers; lower alcohol use, reduction in highest-risk youth drinkers, and other benefits.

Project Alert has been designated an exemplary program by the U.S. Department of Education’s Expert Panel on Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools and SAMHSA recognizes Project Alert as a Model Program.