Over Four Decades of Experience in Educating Youth
To develop effective evidence-based drug education, Narconon staff first had to address where past drug education efforts had failed. “Scare tactics”, fear or reasoning by providing information alone never worked.
Over these decades, working with thousands of schools and several prevention model—everything from supplemental materials to customized live presentation and now a complete curriculum—Narconon staff refined an approach that speaks powerfully to and gives a realistic picture of drug misuse in their own language.
To accomplish this, we first asked youths to tell us what would work: we surveyed over 165,000 students to learn, from youths themselves, precisely how to influence youth regarding:
a) decisions to stop using drugs (for those who had already used them),
b) perceptions about drugs such as would change their mind from possibly trying or using drugs to a firm decision not to use them, and
c) what might support and strengthen their decision not to use drugs (when they state they are already against them).
What works is an approach that acknowledges and influences how youth make social decisions. our survey results align with current social influences theories, in particular the five component communication persuasion model first described by W.J. McGuire1. Effective prevention must provide information and discuss consequences but must do so in a way that is appreciated by youths faced with often-conflicting messages. It must present complicated terms and detailed biological data in formats that engage the audience; even real-life stories.
Effective prevention must foster open communication among out youths and strengthen their skills and abilities to communicate with each other and also with parents as well as adult members of their community. And, prevention programs must consult each individual’s understanding with interactive work that allows them to think for themselves; that represents their uniqueness and person sense of truth. Young people need never opportunity to inspect social behaviors, even look at conflicting dichotomies, and use their observations to develop what is true for them.
Prevention programs must not only present correct social messages, prevention efforts must also be repeated frequently enough to counter the often-glamorized pro-drug lifestyle, illicit or not. Encouraging pro-survival actions must be a part and parcel to family life and neighborhoods as well as the school community—a school-based program can foster broader dialog.2
Working with students, we next explored answering the question: “What was the underlying factor that drove him or her to experiment? What underlies the decision to use drugs?:” We found key answers:
- Many teenagers answered that the casual factor was boredom.
- A large group of students answered that they were escaping a problem, most commonly an inability to communicate with others.
- Some just never questioned it; they had not considered or seen any negative consequences.
Through these surveys, Narconon drug education staff also discovered the powerful role of humor and anecdotal stories. We discovered that the more humor we injected into the sessions, the more student told us they remained engaged. The more we used real-life examples, the greater the understanding.
To enhance, update and increase the effectiveness of our program, staff administered essay-style surveys to participants in each individual session. These post-session surveys (Beckmann and Chapman) showed:
- 40% showed a major changing in their perception of risk–many stating they did not know drugs were that dangerous and now will not use them.
- 45% said their decision not to use drugs was reinforced after hearing the presentation.
- Over 96% felt it was a good program and they learned a lot about drugs.
Key information on alcohol and other drugs is presented with humor and metaphors appropriate to age level. We don’t just tell kids to “say no”; we educate them to come to that conclusion on their own. we provide life skills and dialog so that resisting tobacco, alcohol and other drugs becomes socially easier.
Decades of Results
The primary goals of all Narconon groups is to reduce, and ultimately to eliminate drug abuse in society. The purpose of the Narconon Truth About Drugs Video Program is to prevent young people from misusing and abusing drugs and alcohol—which means reaching them before they start.
During the past 20 years, we have accomplished the following with the Narconon drug education program:
- Delivered our live presentations in over 3,000 schools and youth groups
- Delivered our video presentations in over 9,600 schools in all 50 U.S. states
- Educated over 9 million school children ages 6 to 18 years
Initially, Narconon distributed individual VHS-format presentations to over 7,400 schools and groups across the U.S., eventually reaching over 9 million students. After careful monitoring and evaluation, Narconon has released the complete High School level curriculum on DVD.
Narconon continues to develop new materials for use with other age groups and settings. We offer Educator kits appropriate for Elementary and Middle School students and are in the process of expanding each of these. We also have kits for parents and materials useful for other settings.
While we do not recommend untrained or court-ordered speakers or large assemblies, the Narconon network has trained specialists who can reinforce the messages in our curriculum by working with groups and classrooms. The Narconon prevention specialists are carefully trained to direct truthful discussions regarding drug use consequences. Such individuals provide an important degree of identification among those who have begun experimenting—one that may change their drug-use decision and life. A properly trained live presenter can effectively de-glamorize substance abuse while answering tough questions.
1 McGuire, W.J. (1969). The nature of attitudes and attitude change. Handbook of Social Psychology. Volume 3, The Individual in a Social Context.
2 Battistich and Hom 1997, Botvin 2000, Claukins, Pacula et al. 2004