Volume 12, Number 2
From the 'Burbs to the 'Hood . . .
This Program Reduces Students' Risk of Drug Use
By Robert Mathias, NIDA NOTES Staff Writer
Photo by Frank Siteman
A school-based drug abuse prevention program that has been shown to lower
drug use among white middle-class adolescents also reduces drug use among
minority youths, according to soon-to-be-published results from a NIDA-funded
study. The intervention had preventive effects on African-American and Hispanic
youths' use of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol and lowered their intentions
to use drugs in the future, the study indicates.
While other drug abuse prevention studies have shown reduced drug use
among populations that included inner-city minorities, "this is the
first study of a prevention program focused exclusively on an inner-city
minority population that has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the
use of multiple drugs among these youths," says Dr. Gilbert Botvin,
who conducted the study. Dr. Botvin, who directs the Institute for Prevention
Research at Cornell University Medical Center in New York City, has followed
up this initial study with a large-scale study of the prevention program,
called Life Skills Training, with a predominantly minority population in
New York City schools.
Whose Opinion Counts? (Influences on Your Decisions)
1. Write a list of who or what you think about when you make a
|2. For each of the following decisions, check off all of the things that
influence your choice. For example, when you decide what to wear, do you
think about your own opinions, your friend's opinions, your mother's opinions,
etc.? You can check more than one influence for each decision.|
||My Friends' Opinion
||My Parents' Opinion
||My Past Experience, Successes, Failures
||What I See on TV
|| What I Read About
||What It Costs (in Time, Money, Convenience)|
What to Wear
How to Cut My Hair
What to Eat
What Music to Listen to
What Movies to See
What I Like to Do
Look at all your answers. Where do you have the most checks? Your friends,
parents, media? Sometimes you don't realize how much we worry what other
people think. Are you REALLY making decisions that are right for you?
Noting that the Life Skills program has been tested extensively and successfully
with white suburban youths, Dr. Botvin says, "What we're trying to
do is determine the extent to which an intervention that is fundamentally
the same will work with many different kinds of kids." This is important
when it comes to implementing prevention programs in the real world, he
says. "Many cities are similar to New York, where you have more than
100 different minority ethnic groups living, working, and going to school
together," Dr. Botvin notes. "This makes it virtually impossible
to implement an intervention that focuses on one specific population."
Under the Life Skills program, which was developed by Dr. Botvin, regular
classroom teachers teach junior high school students skills to resist social
pressures to use drugs and foster students' antidrug attitudes and perceptions.
The program also teaches a range of social and personal skills that increase
young people's ability to handle the challenges of adolescent life more
effectively and reduce the likelihood that they will use alcohol and drugs.
In the initial study, 721 7th grade male and female minority students
in 7 New York City schools received either the 15-session Life Skills Training
intervention or the standard school drug education program that provided
students with information about drugs and the hazards of drug use. Students
in both groups were predominantly Hispanic and African American, economically
disadvantaged, and comparable on other variables such as academic performance
and family structure.
About 3 months after the intervention, the researchers administered confidential
questionnaires about drug use and carbon monoxide breath tests for cigarette
smoking to both groups. These measures showed that youths in the Life Skills
group had significant reductions in both current drug use and intentions
to use drugs. Compared to students who received the standard program, students
in the Life Skills group smoked cigarettes and marijuana and drank alcohol
significantly less often. They also had used more than one of these substances
less often in the previous month. In addition, they had lower intentions
of smoking cigarettes or marijuana, drinking beer or wine, or using cocaine
within the next year.
Previously, Dr. Botvin had conducted a series of studies that consistently
showed that the Life Skills Training program reduces tobacco, alcohol, and
marijuana use among white middle-class youths. Those studies indicate that
the Life Skills program works equally well with boys and girls. One study,
which followed students over a 6-year period, demonstrated that administering
the intervention in the 7th grade and following it up with booster sessions
in the 8th and 9th grades significantly reduced these adolescents' use of
tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, as well as use of more than one of these
substances, through the end of high school. (For more information on
this study, see "School-Based Drug Abuse Prevention Program Shows Long-Lasting
Results," NIDA NOTES, November/December 1994, p. 8.)
The intervention used in the New York City study has been modified to
ensure that the Life Skills program engages inner-city minorities, Dr. Botvin
says. For example, program materials use illustrations of minority youths
and change some of the scenarios in which students practice skills they
can use to handle difficult situations. In addition, when teachers deliver
the program to inner-city adolescents, they may use language that is more
familiar to their students to bring the curriculum to life and better engage
them, Dr. Botvin says.
Despite such surface modifications, "the underlying intervention
strategy has remained the same throughout all of our studies,"
|| The teacher's manual for the Life Skills Training program contains
the curriculum and materials needed to implement the program.|
Dr. Botvin says. The research literature suggests that the factors that
lead to drug abuse are largely the same in all adolescents, he says. Although
there are minor differences among different groups, "basically the
factors are similar enough to argue for using a common intervention strategy,"
he states. "This has enabled us to come up with a prevention model
that potentially is applicable to kids from many different ethnic groups
across the country," he says. Ultimately, therefore, the studies with
white middle-class youths and the studies with inner-city minority youths
"may give us an intervention that we can use in cities and towns and
villages across the United States without having to develop separate intervention
approaches for each and every different population," Dr. Botvin says.
In this regard, early results from the full-scale study of the Life Skills
Training program under way with minority youths in New York City schools
are promising. Now in its third year, the study is testing the intervention's
effectiveness with approximately 4,500 students from a wide range of racial
and ethnic groups in 29 schools. The study also will examine possible gender
differences in the program's impact. An initial analysis conducted 1 year
after the intervention was administered in the 7th grade is "showing
prevention effects comparable to the effects that we showed in the pilot
study, including significant reductions in tobacco, alcohol, marijuana,
and multiple drug use," Dr. Botvin reports.
Botvin, G.J.; Baker, E.; Dusen-bury, L.; Botvin, E.M.; and Diaz, T. Long-term
follow-up results of a randomized drug abuse prevention trial in a white
middle-class population. JAMA 273(14):1106-1112, 1995.
Botvin, G.J.; Epstein, J.A.; Baker, E.; Diaz, T.; and Ifill-Williams,
M. School-based drug abuse prevention with inner-city minority youth. Journal
of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, in press.
For More Information:
To learn more about Life Skills Training, contact the Institute for Prevention
Research, Cornell University Medical College, 411 E. 69th St., Room KB-201,
New York, NY 10021, (212) 746-1270.
From NIDA NOTES, March/April 1997
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