A Review of the Evaluation of 47 Drug Abuse Prevention Curricula Available Nationally

By Dusenbury, Linda; Lake, Antonia et al. | Journal of School Health, April 1997 | Go to article overview
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A Review of the Evaluation of 47 Drug Abuse Prevention Curricula Available Nationally

Dusenbury, Linda, Lake, Antonia, Falco, Mathea, Journal of School Health

Drug prevention efforts the past two decades relied largely on classroom curricula, usually designed for elementary and middle school children. The General Accounting Office estimates that the nation's schools spend $125 million on drug abuse prevention curricula each year.[1] A survey of school districts in Wisconsin[2] revealed that almost two-thirds had purchased a drug abuse prevention curriculum.

A growing consensus in the drug abuse prevention field suggests certain types of school-based programs effectively can reduce drug use in adolescence. This opinion, reflected in recent literature reviews,[3-6] is supported by several meta-analyses.[1,7-13] Specifically, prevention curricula which give students training in social resistance skills or how to recognize influences and resist them effectively, and normative education positing that drug use is not the norm have been shown to reduce substance use behavior. In addition, training in broader personal and social skills such as decision-making, anxiety reduction, communication, and assertiveness appears to enhance program effectiveness.

Unfortunately, while research has shown that certain prevention curricula are effective, Hansen, Rose, and Dryfoos[1] suggest that most of the money in this country is not spent on curricula proven to work, but on aggressively marketed programs that have not been evaluated, or worse, have been shown not to work.

This review determined how many drug prevention curricula available to schools have been shown in rigorous research studies to reduce substance use behavior. Previous reviews of the literature do not answer this question. They identified promising prevention approaches,[3-6] but they did not limit themselves to drug abuse prevention curricula available to schools. Indeed, many studies evaluated experimental curricula not available to the general population. This review is unique in that it focuses on the universe of programs available to schools and asks which of these have been shown to effectively reduce substance use.


The project's first step involved identifying drug abuse prevention curricula. Curricula meeting four criteria were included: 1) they focused on primary prevention of alcohol and/or drug use, and not simply on tobacco use, 2) they were classroom-based curricula designed for any grade level P-12, 3) they were nationally and currently available, and 4) program distributors were willing to provide samples of curriculum materials to determine drug abuse prevention content.

Six procedures were followed to create an exhaustive list of currently available drug abuse prevention curricula: 1) review of the literature on drug abuse prevention curricula, 2) queries to experts in drug abuse prevention to identify programs they knew about and to review the list for omissions, 3) queries to federal agencies involved in drug abuse prevention research and practice, 4) queries to publishers of health education curricula and review of their catalogs, 5) announcements at drug abuse and health education conferences and meetings, and 6) review of published and unpublished guides to drug abuse prevention. Forty-eight curricula met the criteria; one (Me-Me) declined to participate. Table 1 contains a list of 47 curricula reviewed.

Table 1 Listing of Drug Abuse Prevention Curricula Currently Available

Comprehensive Health Programs               Grade Level
Actions for Health                          K-6
Comprehensive Health                        5-9
Discover: Decisions for Health              7-12
Entering Adulthood                          9-12
Great Body Shop                             K-6
(*)Growing Healthy                          K-6
Health Skills for Life                      K-12
(*)Know Your Body                           K-6
Michigan Model                              K-8
Quest: Skills for Growing                   K-5
Quest: Skills for Adolescence               6-8
Quest: Skills for Action                    9-12
Science for Life and Living                 K-6
(*)Teenage Health Teaching Modules          6-12

K-12 Programs                               Grade Level
BABES                                       P-12
Choosing for Yourself II                    K-12
(*)DARE                                     K-12
Discover Skills for Life                    K-12
Here's Looking at Your, 2000                K-12
Learning About Alcohol and Other Drugs      K-12
Learning to Live Drug Free                  K-12
Project Oz                                  K-12
That's Life                                 K-10

Elementary and Middle School Programs       Grade Level
CounterAct                                  4, 5,or 6
Facts, Feelings, Family, and Friends        K-6
Growing Up Strong                           P-6
Growing Up Well                             K-8
I'm Special                                 3 or 4
McGruff                                     P-6
Paper People                                P-3
Positive Action                             K-8
Project Charlie                             K-6
Starting Early                              K-6

Middle and High School Programs             Grade Level
Al-Co-Hol                                   7-9
(*)Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program        6-8
Drug Proof                                  6-8
From Peer Pressure to Peer Support          7-12
Healthy for Life                            6-8
(*)Life Skills Training                     6-8 or 7-9
Ombudsman                                   5-9
(*)Project Alert                            6, 7, or 7,8
Project All-Stars                           6,7
(*)Project Northland                        6-8
Setting Norms for Refusal                   6, 7, or 8
(*)Social Competence Promotion Program      5, 6, or7
(*)STAR                                     5-8
Talking with Your Students About Alcohol    5-12

(*) Curriculum have been evaluated adequately

Curriculum distributors and developers also were contacted by mail and in follow-up telephone calls to request full evaluation reports of each curriculum.

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