Teen Drug Abuse Prevention

Teen drug abuse prevention can be diverted toward healthier, more successful lives, according to NIDA-supported researchers.

By using interventions designed specifically to address the personal and social factors that place some high school students at risk of drug abuse, schools can reduce these young people\s drug use and other unhealthy behaviors, these researchers say.

One such teen drug abuse prevention program under way in the Seattle area has improved academic performance and reduced drug involvement among high school students whose poor academic records and behavioral problems indicate they are at high risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs. Another teen drug abuse prevention program in California is showing promising early results in reducing and preventing serious drug use among students in continuation schools. Continuation schools are alternative public schools where students with behavioral and other problems can complete their high school education.

Reconnecting Youth

"Our ethnographic studies show that kids who are at high risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs are more isolated and depressed and have more problems with anger," says Dr. Leona Eggert of the University of Washington in Seattle. "They are disconnected from school and family and are loosely connected with negative peers," she says. Additional information indicate that many of these youths also have suicidal behaviors or thoughts, Dr. Eggert says. Universal teen drug abuse prevention programs that are aimed at all youths in a school are usually inadequate to meet the special needs and problems of these youths, she states.

Dr. Eggert and her colleagues have developed a high school-based teen drug abuse prevention intervention that is designed for students in the 9th through 12th grades who are skipping classes, doing poorly academically, and in danger of dropping out of school and abusing drugs. The program, called Reconnecting Youth, works to reattach at-risk youths to their schools, their families, and positive peer groups. The program also teaches them social and personal skills they can use to better manage their emotions and deal with their problems without resorting to drug abuse.

Reconnecting Youth's core element is a one-semester daily Personal Growth Class that is incorporated into the youths' regular class schedule. The class is led by a teacher who fosters the development of a mutually supportive peer group that encourages positive behaviors. The group encourages acceptance, respect, understanding for others, and a willingness to help other classmates solve their problems constructively. The class also focuses on enhancing the youths' self-esteem; improving their decision-making and communications skills; and improving their ability to manage stress, anger, and depression. The ultimate goals of the program are decreased drug use and increased school performance and emotional well-being.

Studies conducted among multiethnic populations of at-risk boys and girls in Seattle area high schools show that, compared to at-risk youths who did not receive the intervention, youths in the Reconnecting Youth program have increased academic performance and decreased drug involvement. The program also improves at-risk youths' ties to their schools and teachers and increases their self-esteem and social support. The program is equally effective with boys and girls but appears to have more of an effect on reducing girls' attachment to friends who skip school and use drugs.

The latest version of the Reconnecting Youth program includes additional classroom and school components that address the needs of the substantial portion of these youths who also are at risk for suicide. The program has been shown to decrease depression, anger and aggression, stress, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among these youths, which aides in teen drug abuse prevention. 

To find out how you can make a difference in your community, contact Narconon Arrowhead by calling 1-800-468-6933 or via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Communities and families working together can help aid in teen drug abuse prevention.