Do Middle School Drug/ Alcohol Awareness Programs Even Work?


| 10 Comments

Many students, upon entering middle school and their adolescence begin, naturally, to experiment with substances such as marijuana, tobacco, and/or alcohol.  Middle schools, grades 6-8, were selected from 11 states to participate in a study to see whether or not the knowledge of substance abuse is beneficial to prevent future use for its students. All of these schools had no prior abuse education/ awareness programs. Two groups were randomly selected, one to take the "ALERT" (drug abuse education and awareness program) class and one group, being the control, to not take the class.

The study and its data can be found here : http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00650585?term=ALERT&rslt=With&rank=1

The purpose of this study is to see whether it is indeed beneficial for students to go through a substance use prevention program or if it really makes no difference in the decisions that the students wind up making after the class either way.

5,064 students (2,551 students in the control group and 2,513 students in the treatment group) through grades 6 and 8 from the schools began and completed an effectiveness trial to see whether or not a substance abuse prevention program was beneficial. The students were divided into two groups one of which went through the ALERT classes, which is referred to as the treatment group, consisted of 11 lessons the first year, and 3 booster lessons the second year. The control group, a group used to study the results of students not being tested, didn't go through any of these classes.

After the testing period, all students from both groups were given an 81-item self-report questionnaire in order to come up with the results of whether or not the class had any effect on the students. Unfortunately, the numbers of students from the control and treatment groups answered very closely as if the ALERT class had almost no effect on the students. All questions were asked about 30-day use and lifetime use, for all three categories (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana), resulted extremely alike. Therefore, it can be concluded, from this sample group which is a very accurate sample to that of the population, the ALERT class did not have any effect on the students who participated in the study.

I think that this conclusion could be due to offsetting factors. I think that some students do benefit from these awareness classes. Students who are brought up in a household with discipline generally know to listen and follow instruction from adults and authoritative figures--in their case, this class may be beneficial. However, other students who are not as disciplined and a bit more daring may see this as an eye opening experience, curious to what all these substances are and why people do them despite the negative air about them. Some researchers believe drug awareness can be "ineffective and at times counterproductive", but I don't believe that's the case for everyone.

Here's a look at what DrugScope has to say on the effectiveness of awareness programs: http://www.drugscope.org.uk/resources/faqs/faqpages/does-drug-education-stop-drug-use

What do you think? Do you want your future child to be exposed to these awareness classes?

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10 Comments

I think the problem with the study is that the answers are self-reported use. Teens can either exaggerate or downplay their use of drugs/alcohol for different reasons. If they think using is cool, they could exaggerate, but if they are aware of the damaging effects, they are probably more likely to hide their real usage.

It will be difficult, however, for a study to be designed where the real use can be found. They obviously cannot lock these people in a room or follow them around to monitor their use, so I'm unaware of how a study can be designed where the bias of self-reporting is taken away.

As for your question about future children being exposed to these classes, I think they can be designed in a different way. Whereas they are now designed to explain what the drug does to your body, I think people with drug and alcohol problems speaking to these children will be more effective. It will be more genuine, less of a lecture and expose them to the addictive part of drugs, after the high.

I think the problem with the study is that the answers are self-reported use. Teens can either exaggerate or downplay their use of drugs/alcohol for different reasons. If they think using is cool, they could exaggerate, but if they are aware of the damaging effects, they are probably more likely to hide their real usage.

It will be difficult, however, for a study to be designed where the real use can be found. They obviously cannot lock these people in a room or follow them around to monitor their use, so I'm unaware of how a study can be designed where the bias of self-reporting is taken away.

As for your question about future children being exposed to these classes, I think they can be designed in a different way. Whereas they are now designed to explain what the drug does to your body, I think people with drug and alcohol problems speaking to these children will be more effective. It will be more genuine, less of a lecture and expose them to the addictive part of drugs, after the high.

First off, this is a great post because it's a real concern in society that should be taken very seriously. I feel that so many young kids' lives are broken from dabbling with drugs without knowing the consequences that come along with them. Hearing stories from my best friend's little sister, who's in middle school, scares the living shit out of me. When I was in middle school it was bad if you kissed a boy at a dance. Now, they acctually aren't allowed to shut the lights off at the middle school dances anymore where I'm from because the kids were having sexual intercourse and doing drugs, it's sickening. The D.A.R.E. programs keep the parents and teachers happy, and probably reaches out to a few kids so that's why they will continue to do them. Pre-teens are getting worse by the year, it's sad but true. Kids honestly scare me, haha.

http://www.bradfordhealth.com/articles/middle-school-students-in-the-middle-of-addiction/

I think this is a very interesting topic, especially since it relates so closely to what we've been studying in class: experimenting with hypothesis. I enjoyed your step by step summary of how the experiment was conducted because it provided a real life example to what Andrew has been teaching us. Just like the Pop Quiz we took- where scientists tested to see which form of hand-drying worked better: paper towel or hand dryer. And they both seemed to result in the same effect! Just like these students...It's a shame that drug awareness/prevention courses don't seem to help with students' use of drugs but I'm sure there are other ways to keep them out of trouble. This article below elaborates on these kinds of tips.

http://www.creators.com/advice/ethnically-speaking-larry-meeks/tips-for-keeping-your-kids-away-from-drugs.html

I think this is a great article because it pertains to us and the future generations. I think it's amazing that children are getting into drugs and alcohol so early now. I remember being in high school and my friends younger siblings would be talking about drugs that I've never even heard of. D.A.R.E was scarcely used around my school district. I agree with Carissa that it probably does more for the parents and teachers than it does for the kids. At the end of the day though, even if three kids are listening, it's three less kids who are bound to try drugs. I think in the future, other programs will start to develop to teach children more about drugs. I think it would definitely be more beneficial for the children to see the side effects that drugs have had on people rather than simply stating facts.
I found this article about cutting Dare pretty interesting as well.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/dare/

I think one of the major problems with alcohol awareness programs in middle schools is that children don't take it as seriously as they should. I know my middle school didn't have a program like that but we did in high school and I think it was definitely more effective. I think it is not only important to enforce alcohol awareness at an older age but I think parents should also be enforcing the seriousness of the issue around the house. I know tons of people that partied in high school and have gotten in serious trouble because they were clearly underage drinking. If parents simply sit down with their kids and explain to them that it's ok to have fun but to always be safe. When I was in high school my parents were very lenient about what I did and that was because they trusted me to be safe. I also told my parents where I was going and we had a rule that no matter what happened they wouldn't get me in trouble if I was being honest with them. This website is a perfect example of how and why parents should simply talk to their children about the seriousness of alcohol.

This is a pretty good example as to why scare tactics and the like don't work. In my opinion, they make kids even more curious about things that they aren't allowed to have. The real problem nowadays, as mentioned by the previous post, is that parents fail to take responsibility in instilling values in their kids.
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/knowing-health-risks-doesnt-stop-people-taking-drugs

I always knew about these classes and wondered if they actually worked. All throughout grade school, DARE would come and give us talks about why drugs are bad. I think these sessions can be used to scare kids and to inform them of the dangers of the drugs. But, I do not think they will be a deciding factor in if kids participate in doing drugs. I think kids feel peer pressured and want to fit in during middle school. So, they will do whatever everyone else will do and forget about those "dumb" DARE classes. From experience, I know the kids I went to grade school were not affected by the classes, they just did what they wanted. The type of environment a child is brought up in is another factor...there are actually a lot of third variable possibilities that could be causing kids to use or not use drugs. If schools wanted to stop kids from doing drugs, they should try harder. Maybe enforcing drug tests would be a good idea. This article goes more in depth about that idea:
http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/alcohol/drug-testing-of-middle-school-students-may-help-prevent-substance-abuse-study

Luke,
I agree with your stand on the drug awareness programs. I also agree that their are other confounding factors such as parental guidance, activities that the kids are involved in, and the type of residence that they live in. In some cases you can inform adolescents as much as possible but if they are not growing up in a drug free environment or aren't involved in activities that occupy most of their time then they invariantly turn to drugs and alcohol. The link below provides substantial evidence that kids who don't use drugs are highly involved in extracurricular activities.
http://alcoholselfhelpnews.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/teen-drug-use-and-extracurricular-activities/

I think kids these days are much more rebellious and less likely to listen to their parents and also partake in activity that is not necessary legal such as taking drugs, smoking weed, etc. a major reason I think as to why kids are turning more and more into degenerate members of society is because of their parents. Parents these days do not really know how to parent at all anymore and it shows in the kids who act like thugs and constantly do bad things. When I was a kid, if I did a bad thing my parents would really let me know and be tough and make sure I did not do it again, but parents today just don't care what their kids do and they constantly cave into their kids demands for more stuff and stuff they shouldn't get like M rated games (which I have a lot to say about when parents say "games are turning our children into killers"). So I think the fact that these school things don't really have an effect of the kids of the next generation can also stem from poor parenting. Parents who have not molded their kids to be respectable members of society.

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