Adolescents Respond Best to Interactive Drug Prevention Programs

Defining effective drug prevention programs: What works?

Tobler Research Associates conducted a systematic review of studies examining the effectiveness of tobacco and substance abuse prevention programs.

Under the contract, investigators conducted three separate meta-analyses examining:

  • 207 evaluations of school-based substance abuse prevention programs.
  • 99 evaluations of non-school-based programs.
  • 51 evaluations of family interventions that measured aggression and conduct disorder—two commonly used predictors in studies of young-adolescent substance abuse.

Key Findings

Among the investigators' findings, as reported in the Journal of Primary Prevention, 20(4): 275–336, 2000.

  • Interactive programs—which foster interpersonal skills and active engagement between students and teachers—are more effective than noninteractive programs—which are lecture oriented and stress drug knowledge.

    Interactive programs are more effective at reducing, preventing or delaying adolescent drug use for all substances combined and for each substance individually—tobacco, alcohol and marijuana).
  • As the number of participants in an interactive program increases, the program's effectiveness decreases. Non-interactive programs are only marginally effective at any size, yet are used in 90 percent of U.S. schools.
  • Many of the reports that list "evidence-based best practices" or "research-based model programs" include programs for which evidence of effectiveness is of questionable quality or lacking altogether.