An estimated 13 million youths aged 12 to 17 become involved with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs annually. The number of 12- to 17-year olds abusing controlled prescription drugs increased an alarming 212 percent between 1992 and 2003. For many youths, substance abuse precedes academic and health problems including lower grades, higher truancy, drop out decisions, delayed or damaged physical, cognitive, and emotional development, or a variety of other costly consequences. For thirty years the Narconon program has worked with schools and community groups providing single educational modules aimed at supplementing existing classroom-based prevention activities. In 2004, Narconon International developed a multi-module, universal prevention curriculum for high school ages based on drug abuse etiology, program quality management data, prevention theory and best practices. We review the curriculum and its rationale and test its ability to change drug use behavior, perceptions of risk/benefits, and general knowledge.
After informed parental consent, approximately 1000 Oklahoma and Hawai’i high school students completed a modified Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Participant Outcome Measures for Discretionary Programs survey at three testing points: baseline, one month later, and six month follow-up. Schools assigned to experimental conditions scheduled the Narconon curriculum between the baseline and one-month follow-up test; schools in control conditions received drug education after the six-month follow-up. Student responses were analyzed controlling for baseline differences using analysis of covariance.
At six month follow-up, youths who received the Narconon drug education curriculum showed reduced drug use compared with controls across all drug categories tested. The strongest effects were seen in all tobacco products and cigarette frequency followed by marijuana. There were also significant reductions measured for alcohol and amphetamines. The program also produced changes in knowledge, attitudes and perception of risk.
The eight-module Narconon curriculum has thorough grounding in substance abuse etiology and prevention theory. Incorporating several historically successful prevention strategies this curriculum reduced drug use among youths.
Summary of Findings
Last 30-day frequency of drug use was assessed for 22 different drugs using the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Participant Outcome Measures for Discretionary Programs. The findings measured statistically significant (p<0.05) reduction in substance use six months after completing the curriculum for:
|Cigarette frequency||Cigarette amount||Smokeless tobacco|
|Alcohol Consumption||Being Drunk||Marijuana frequency|
Although outcomes for the remaining 14 substances were not statistically significant, all but GHB moved in a use-reduction direction. This non-clinical setting had a very low number of students reporting drug use in these additional drug categories. Therefore, any measured change in drug use has low statistical power.
The CSAP questionnaire also includes survey questions validated for assessing a program’s ability to change attitudes, perception of risk, and drug-taking decisions—factors that, if changed, are thought to influence actual drug use.
|1. Study data shows that participating youths changed their decisions to use drugs:|
|“It is clear to my friends that I am committed to living a drug-free life.”|
“I have decided that I will smoke cigarettes.”
“I plan to get drunk sometime in the next year.”
|2. The prevention program corrected perceptions of risk from drug use:
“How much do you think people risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they…
|“try marijuana once or twice?”|
“smoke marijuana regularly?”
“take one or two drinks nearly every day?”
|3. Participating youths also increased their disapproval regarding drug use:
“How wrong do you think it is for someone your age to…
|“drink beer, wine or hard liquor (e.g. vodka, whiskey or gin) regularly?”|
“to use LSD, cocaine, amphetamines or another illegal drug?”
Additionally, the study explored changes in specific core knowledge and resistance abilities based on 25 questions created by the program developer. All but two questions showed statistically significant change in protective knowledge and abilities (p<0.05).