'What Works' in Drug Education and Prevention?

This literature review examines the evidence of effectiveness of different types of drug prevention and education for children and young people.

Appendix C: Types of Prevention and Education Programmes and Approaches

Affective Programmes

EMCDDA - affective focused interventions, aimed to modify inner qualities (personality traits such as self-esteem and self-efficacy, and motivational aspects such as the intention to use drugs).

Social Competence

Thomas and Perera (2008) - Social competence curricula use enhancement interventions (also called Affective Education) based on Bandura's social learning theory (Bandura, 1977). This model hypothesizes that children learn drug use by modelling, imitation, and reinforcement, influenced by the child's pro-drug cognitions, attitudes and skills. Susceptibility is increased by poor personal and social skills and a poor personal self-concept (Botvin, 2000). These programmes use cognitive- behavioural skills (instruction, demonstration, rehearsal, feedback, reinforcement, and out-of-class practice in homework and assignments). They teach generic self-management personal and social skills, such as goal-setting, problem-solving, and decision making, and also teach cognitive skills to resist media and interpersonal influences, to enhance self-esteem, to cope with stress and anxiety, to increase assertiveness, and to interact with others of both genders.

Social Influence

Thomas and Perera (2008) - Social influence approaches, based on McGuire's persuasive communications theory (McGuire 1968) and Evans's theory of psychological inoculation (Evans 1976), use normative education methods and anti-tobacco resistance skills training. These include correcting adolescents' overestimates of the smoking rates of adults and adolescents, recognising high-risk situations, increasing awareness of media, peer, and family influences, teaching and practising refusal skills, and making public commitments not to smoke. They often apply the techniques of generic competence enhancement to specific anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol, and anti-drug goals.

Social Norms

Faggiano et. al (2014) - see social influence above.

Fear-based approaches

James (2011) "Research has consistently found that attempting to frighten young people away from using drugs through fear-based approaches is ineffective (Prevention First, 2008). In general, people often have a defensive response to messages arousing fear and unpleasant emotions. Warnings that do not match young people's personal experiences or what they perceive amongst their friends will not be believed and can undermine the credibility of the messenger. Cragg (1994) argues that emphasising the dangers of drugs may in fact enhance the status of drug-taking as part of youth culture and a rite of passage" (James, 2011, 8).

Knowledge based approaches/Factual Information provision

EMCDDA - knowledge focused interventions, aimed to enhance knowledge of drugs, and drug effects, and consequences. These approaches assume that information alone will lead to changes in behaviour.

Multi-model approaches

Thomas and Perera (2008) - Multi-modal programmes combine curricular approaches with wider initiatives within and beyond the school, including programmes for parents, schools, or communities and initiatives to change school policies about tobacco, or state policies about the taxation, sale, availability and use of tobacco.


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