Substance Abuse Prevention Takes to the Classroom

By Mayer, Olivia | State Legislatures, October 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Substance Abuse Prevention Takes to the Classroom

Mayer, Olivia, State Legislatures

Researchers finally think they know what can keep kids away from drugs and alcohol. Now they hope legislators will make sure money set aside for such programs is spent effectively.

By the time children reach eighth grade, nearly one in four has tried marijuana, a quarter have been drunk and one in five has sniffed inhalants. More than half have tried beer, wine or the like. The number of teens receiving substance abuse treatment on any given day between 1991 and 1996 - when illicit drug use soared among adolescents in this country - almost doubled from 44,000 to 77,000.

But children start experimenting way before that.

Two percent of fourth graders (9- and 10-year-olds) huff inhalants on a monthly basis, and nearly 8 percent have tried beer, according to a recent nationwide survey by the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education. Kids also say such substances are "easy to get."

How do we get them to stop before they even start? Researchers agree the best defense is comprehensive prevention involving the community, parents, the media and schools. For years, the bulk of the effort has been waged where kids are most accessible - school. But schools might not be doing all they can. Some experts say state leaders need to take a look at more successful and sophisticated programs that are working in a handful of places.


School prevention programs today are far more sophisticated than those of 30 years ago when they made their debut. As the body of research on what works has grown, programs have changed.

Initially, if substance abuse prevention was introduced at all, it was maybe a onetime discussion in health class or during a special assembly preaching what alcohol and drugs were and about their dangers. These attempts gave way to emotional and moralistic appeals that often bordered on, if not crossed into, scare tactics. Sometimes, prevention addressed the self-esteem and emotional well-being of students.

About 15 years ago or so something called the "social influences" strategy was developed, and it appears to be working, says Doug Longshore of the Drug Policy Research Center of RAND, a nonprofit research and analysis group. Successful programs include two major components, "normative education" (in other words letting kids know that not everybody is doing it) and resistance skills.

"Kids typically overestimate how widespread drug use really is," says Longshore. Actual statistics, he adds, "come as a real eye-opener and take a lot of the peer pressure off."

Teaching resistance skills gives kids effective ways of saying no. Kids role-play or act out situations like being offered a cigarette. Videos and workbooks give examples. Rather than a simple no thank you, Longshore explains, kids are taught to say things like, "No thanks, I'm running track." Or "No, I don't smoke. Let's get a soda instead."

The results from such programs - Project ALERT, developed by RAND, and the Life Skills Training program from Cornell University Medical College to name a couple - have been impressive.

More than a dozen studies show Life Skills Training can reduce tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use by an average of 50 percent when schools using the prevention program are compared with control groups. Even more impressive are studies that have shown that six years after participating in the program, kids are still saying no to alcohol and other drugs.

"We now have solid scientific evidence that prevention can work - with the right kind of prevention program and when properly implemented," says Gilbert Botvin, professor and director of the Institute for Prevention Research at Cornell University Medical College and developer of the proven program called Life Skills Training.

Botvin's program has won the approval of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, who all call it a program that works.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Substance Abuse Prevention Takes to the Classroom


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.