Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

School-Based Substance Abuse Programs: Can They Influence Students' Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Related to Substance Abuse?

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

School-Based Substance Abuse Programs: Can They Influence Students' Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Related to Substance Abuse?

Article excerpt

Over the course of one academic year (2002 - 2003), 413 high school students participated in a study to assess the effectiveness of a school-based substance abuse curriculum. Methods included pre and post test surveys. The substance abuse curriculum was successful in improving students' knowledge of (p < .001) and attitudes about (p < .05) substance abuse. In terms of behavior, 36% of the students who used drugs reported a decline in use and 26% who used alcohol reported a decline in use. Other noteworthy findings included the percentages of students who stated that exposure to the program had them "thinking about" reducing their use as well as percentages of students who acknowledged the negative impact substance use had on their schoolwork, family relationships, and choice of friends.

The Monitoring the Future survey (Johnston, Bachman & O'Malley, 2002) is perhaps the best known longitudinal study on trends in teenage substance abuse. It reports that alcohol remains the most popular drug of choice, with 80% of high school seniors acknowledging its use and almost half of high school seniors reporting use of marijuana. "Club drugs" (like ecstasy--MDMA) as well as stimulants have become more popular at the turn of the century. Gatins (2005) reported similar findings with alcohol and marijuana being far more likely to be used by adolescents than other drugs.

Substance abuse educators are concerned about the trend of use of drugs at younger ages. Recent studies' findings included 25% of 8th graders reporting drinking alcohol regularly, that more than 70% of adolescents have had alcohol by the age of 14 and that 10% of 6th graders consumed five or more drinks at one time at least once in the previous two weeks (Johnston et al., 2002; Kosterman, Jawkins, Guo, Catalano, & Abbot, 2000; Steinberg, 2002). The use of alcohol among American adolescents is comparable to that of teens in other industrialized nations. However, the use of other drugs by teenagers is more common in the United States than in other countries (Arnett, 2002; Silbereisen, Robins, & Rutter, 1995). This suggests that use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) has become a normative part of American adolescent culture. The drug of choice may vary by decade, but the act of using substances to alter one's state of consciousness seems to be an adolescent rite of passage. However, it is important to keep in mind that persistent substance abuse during adolescence has been associated with many problems. As cited in Steinberg's (2005) review of the literature:

   Young people who abuse alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are more
   likely to experience problems at school, experience psychological
   distress and depression, have physical health problems, engage in
   unprotected sexual activity, abuse alcohol as young adults, and
   become involved in dangerous or deviant activities, including crime,
   delinquency and truancy ... (p. 432)

A comprehensive review of the literature that seeks to understand all of the factors that influence an adolescent's decision to use ATOD is beyond the scope of this article. However, the following is offered as a partial list of those factors: adolescents' expectations about the positive or negative effects of drinking (Grube & Agostinelli, 1999); the opportunity for use in a high school setting (Volke & Frone, 2000); social competence (Caplan, Weissberg, Grober, Sivo, Grady, & Jacoby, 1992); perceived self control (Adalbjarnardottir & Rafnsson, 2001); importance of norm setting and refusal skills (Wynn, Schulenberg, & Kloska, 1997; Wynn, Schulenberg, Maggs, & Zucker, 2000); impact of social skills training (Scheier, Botvin, & Griffin, 1999); lack of gender specific programs for girls (Blake, Hortensia, Schwartz, & Flinchbaugh, 2001; Guthrie & Flinchbaugh, 2001); influence of risk factors and protective factors (Hawkins, Catalano & Miller, 1992); influence of perception of older siblings' use (D'Amico & Fromme, 1997); cultural issues (Barnett & Miller, 2001; Botvin, Baker, Dusenbery, Botvin & Diaz, 1995; Bray, Adams, Getz, & Baer, 2001; Schinke, Orlandi, Botvin, Gilchrist, Trimble, & Locklear, 1988); interrelations among coping strategies, drinking motives and stressful life events (Windle & Windle, 1996); and buffering effects of a health-valuing attitude (Reifman, Barnes, Dintcheff, Uhteg, & Farrell, 2001). …

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