Eleven Components of Effective Drug Abuse Prevention Curricula

Article excerpt

A review of school-based drug abuse prevention programs was conducted for 1989-1994 to identify key elements in effective drug abuse prevention curricula. In addition to a comprehensive literature review, telephone interviews were conducted with a panel of 15 leading experts in prevention research: Gilbert J. Botvin, Director, Institute of Prevention Research, Cornell University Medical College; Richard Clayton, Director, Center for Prevention Research, University of Kentucky; Phyllis Ellickson, Senior Behavioral Scientist and Resident Scholar, RAND; Susan Ennett, Research Health Analyst, Center for Social Research and Policy Analysis, The Research Triangle Institute; Brian Flay, Director, Prevention Research Center, The University of Illinois at Chicago; William B. Hansen, Associate Professor, Dept. of Public Health Sciences, Bowman Gray Medical College; David Hawkins, Director, Social Development Research Group, University of Washington, Karol Kumfer, Associate Professor, Dept. of Health Education, University of Utah; Joel Moskowitz, Associate Director, Center for Family and Community Health, University of California at Berkeley; Mary Ann Pentz, Associate Professor of Research, Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, University of Southern California; Cheryl Perry, Professor, Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota; Christopher Ringwalt, Research Health Analyst, Center for Social Research and Policy Analysis, The Research Triangle Institute; Steven Schinke, Professor, School of Social Work, Columbia University; Nancy Tobler, Research Consultant; and Roger Weissberg, Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The interviews, which ranged from 30-60 minutes in length, were organized around two general questions: "What do you think we currently know about what works in drug abuse prevention?" and "What would you say we know about the effective ingredients of drug abuse prevention programs?" In addition, the panel were asked specific questions relating to their own research.

Unless otherwise cited, comments by Gilbert J. Botvin, Richard Clayton, Phyllis Ellickson, Susan Ennett, Brian Flay, William B. Hansen, David Hawkins, Karol Kumfer, Joel Moskowitz, Mary Ann Pentz, Cheryl Perry, Christopher Ringwalt, Steven Schinke, Nancy Tobler, and Roger Weissberg are based on information gathered during these interviews.


A general consensus in the literature on drug abuse prevention suggests certain school-based programs can achieve at least modest reductions in adolescent drug use. This is reflected in several recent literature reviews[1-5] and is supported by a series of meta-analyses.[6-14] In addition, with one possible exception, this was the consensus of the panel interviewed for this report. There also is agreement that certain kinds of prevention programs are not effective, namely information dissemination or knowledge-based programs which constitute the traditional approach to drug education.

Evaluations of drug abuse prevention programs increased in rigor over the past 15 years, with larger samples, more sophisticated research designs, more thorough data analyses, greater concern for implementation fidelity and accuracy of assessment measures, and longer follow-ups. In response to methodological criticisms of evaluation studies conducted the past two decades[15-19] drug abuse prevention research adopted progressively more demanding methodology. Recently published studies are impressive in their size, scope, and methodological sophistication.[20-25] However, even more persuasive than findings from these recent studies, with their methodological sophistication, are the replicability and consistency of findings across studies and research groups.

The most exciting finding from the past five years has been that drug abuse prevention programs can produce reductions in drug use that are lasting and meaningful. …