Teen Behavior Drugs Drinking Prevention Programs

The U.S. federal and state governments spend billions of dollars every year on drug prevention programs and activities. Much of this funding goes into programs targeted specifically to teenagers. However, despite such programs, the problem of teen drug use continues to be an issue for many families.

Do teen drug prevention programs really help prevent teens from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been collecting data on the effectiveness of drug prevention efforts for the past 30 years by tracking the progress of teens and children who participated in such programs. This data allows researchers to determine which approaches work and which do not, so that funding can be directed toward programs that have the best chance of preventing drug abuse.

Prevention Programs that Work

Approaches to drug prevention that do work are referred to as “research-based,” because their effectiveness is backed up by scientific data. According to the NIDA, a few of the research-based principles of effective drug prevention programs for teens are:

  • Covering all forms of drug use and abuse in the program
  • Educating teens about the risks of drug use in an honest, informative way
  • Encouraging positive activities as an alternative to drug use
  • Helping teens become more aware of the external reasons that push them to want to use drugs (such as peer pressure and advertising) so they can make better choices for themselves
  • Including follow up programs to reinforce the anti-drug message
  • Tailoring the program to fit the demographics of the audience and the type of drug problems most common in that community
  • Teaching social and verbal skills so that teens learn how to refuse drugs without feeling socially isolated and to improve their ability to express themselves in a healthy and effective manner.

Many researchers agree that some or much of the overall decline in teen drug use that was observed between 2001 and 2006 is due to research-based improvements in teen drug prevention programs.

Drug Prevention Efforts that Don’t Work

The research data from the NIDA has also been used to identify approaches to drug prevention that do not correlate with reduced drug abuse. Generally, the following tactics are considered non-effective based on the NIDA data:

  • Ignoring the social aspects of drug use that teens encounter
  • Listing the dangers of drugs in a lecturing style or any manner that teens may perceive as preachy or exaggerated
  • Making a formal presentation to large audience, such as at a school assembly.

Many of today’s drug prevention programs avoid these strategies in favor of research-based activities.


Bosworth, K. (2000). Drug abuse prevention: School-based strategies that work. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/drug.htm

Drug Rehab Program. (2010). Recent trends in teen substance abuse. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.drug-rehab-program.org/teens.php

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Preventing drug abuse among children and adolescents: Applying prevention principles to drug abuse prevention programs. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.nida.nih.gov/prevention/applying.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Preventing drug abuse among children and adolescents prevention principles. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.nida.nih.gov/prevention/principles.html

T., Buddy. (2003). NIDA drug prevention guide re-released. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/tipsforparents/a/blnida030917.htm