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March 01, 2011

Teens who participated in the school-based drug abuse prevention program Project ALERT were less likely than peers to engage in risky sexual behaviors as young adults, report NIDA-funded researchers. Dr. Phyllis L. Ellickson and colleagues at RAND Corporation queried 1,901 unmarried, sexually active 21-year-old men and women from Midwestern communities. The participants had attended schools randomly assigned to use Project ALERT, a middle school curriculum that motivates young people to abstain from drug use and teaches resistance skills; Project ALERT plus 10 booster lessons during high school; or no special program.

Teacher with her class

Forty-four percent of those exposed to either the core or expanded version of Project ALERT reported that they had had multiple sex partners during the past year, compared with 50 percent of their unexposed peers. Just 27 percent of the Project ALERT participants reported that they had engaged in unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, as opposed to 32 percent of the control group. The results suggest that school drug abuse prevention programs can reduce at least some risky sexual behavior years later.

Journal of Adolescent Health 45(2):111–117, 2009. [Full Text (PDF, 66KB)]

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