Sloboda, Z., Stephens, R. C., Stephens, P. C., Grey, S. F., Teasdale, B., Hawthorne, R. D., Williams, J., & Marquette, J. F. (2009). The Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study: A randomized field trial of a universal substance abuse prevention program. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 102: 1-10.
Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:
Individuals, Group, Highly Proactive; Very Rigorous; Backfire effect
What police practice or strategy was examined?
This study evaluated the impact of a universal school-based substance abuse prevention program, Take Charge of Your Life (TCYL), taught by police to reduce juvenile use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.
How was the intervention evaluated?
Eighty-three school clusters (consisting of a high school and its feeder middle school) from six metropolitan areas were randomly assigned to receive the program (41) or to serve as control schools (42). Trained Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) police officers presented TCYL in seventh and ninth grades in treatment schools. Self-administered surveys were completed by the students annually. Analyses were conducted with data from 17,320 students who completed a baseline pre-program survey. Intervention outcomes were measured using self-reported past-month and past-year use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana when students were in the 11th grade.
What were the key findings?
Participation in the program was associated with increases in self-reported alcohol and cigarette use during the past 30 days (by margins of 3.8% and 4.1%, respectively). Subgroup analyses indicated that the negative backfire effect occurred among students who were non-users at the start of the study, and mostly among white students of both genders. The program also did not reduce marijuana use overall, but it did reduce marijuana by 9.8% among students who were users at the start of the study.
What were the implications for law enforcement?
The authors suggest that programs like TCYL should not be delivered as a universal prevention program because it appears to have backfire effects among youth who are non-users of alcohol and tobacco. However, this program may have some benefits if targeted on people who are already drug users.
Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?