There is considerable research on the effectiveness of prevention programs. To make an impact, programs must be multi-pronged, long range, and integrated into the total school environment.
Strategies that don't work alone
- Special guests: This makes a positive short-term impression but loses its impact in a few days.
- Scare tactics: These send mixed messages. The information may be accurate but hysteria undermines adult credibility. Students may become desensitized to the information being presented.
- Drug education: Factual presentations may be effective for low-risk students because they tend to make decisions based on information. High-risk kids tend to make their decisions based on feelings. For these students, the information can actually become a type of consumer report.
- Recreational alternatives: Special events like sports events and dances may have limited effectiveness. Often, these events are organized to give kids something positive to do. This may be true in some communities, but some kids suffer from too many options.
- The hard line: Locker searches, drug testing, and drug-sniffing dogs are short-term solutions to long-term problems. They tend to drive problems underground and increase students' fear about getting help.
- Self-esteem: Feel-good activities do not provide students with the skills they need to cope in the real world.
Prevention strategies that do work
- Life skills training: The most effective prevention programs teach life skills. They focus on processing feelings, making decisions, managing moods, and communicating effectively. They also provide assertiveness training, give students the skills to manage conflict and to say no (refusal skills). These programs also teach social skills such as starting a conversation, responding well to teasing, and keeping out of fights.
- Meaningful participation: Being actively involved in school life gives students a feeling of connectedness and power. Examples are student council, peer tutoring and mentoring, and service projects.
- Peer leadership programs: Student-led programs are effective because they are non-threatening and non-punitive. These programs may include one-to-one support, mediation and conflict resolution teams, or organizing special projects.
- Mentoring programs: Programs that match students at risk with caring and responsible adults provide emotional support and connect the student to the community in a positive way.
We can help children to become confident, happy people who feel good about themselves by establishing the classroom conditions essential to the development of five characteristics: a sense of security, a sense of identity or self-concept, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and a sense of personal competence.