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Successful Prevention of Underage Drinking and Other Drug Use - An Integrated Approach

Successful Prevention of Underage Drinking and Other Drug Use - An Integrated Approach

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Published by jeffwolfsberg
An article that describes a successful model of prevention underage drinking and teen drug use for secondary schools.
An article that describes a successful model of prevention underage drinking and teen drug use for secondary schools.

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Published by: jeffwolfsberg on Nov 02, 2007
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11/25/2011

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104
I n d e p e n d e n t S c h o o l
school 
matters
I
s the complexity of preventingunderage drinking and otherdrug use overwhelming the ca-pacities of independent schools?Nationally, during 2004, 20 percentof eighth graders and 60.3 percent of twelfth graders got drunk at least once,according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Of the 10.7 mil-lion underage youth who drink, 7.2million, or 31 percent of all high schoolstudents, binge drink at least once amonth. And 21.5 percent of eighthgraders and 51.1 of twelfth graders hadtried illicit drugs. Harder to capturein these survey results are the manyrelated issues that alcohol misuse andother drugs foster for teens: motorvehicle crashes, personal injury, sexualassault, teen pregnancy, vandalism,and impaired intellectual and socialdevelopment.Alcohol is far more pervasive thanillicit drugs among teens. Accordingto NIDA, alcohol kills six times moreteens than all illicit drugs combined.Federal spending on the “War onDrugs” has increased from $1.65 bil-lion in 1982 to $19 billion in 2003.Despite these massive increases, morethan half of high school students havetried an illegal drug before they gradu-ate. Additionally, 65 percent have triedcigarettes and 35 percent are currentsmokers. It is time to try another ap-proach.“After years of implementingprograms and seminars, bringing inspeakers, and redesigning our well-ness curricula several times, I do notfeel that we have made any progressin curbing the drinking culture at ourschool, ” said one head of school, echo-ing the frustrations of many schoolleaders. School-based prevention ac-tivities are necessary, but they are notenough to address the complexity of underage drinking and other drug use.Adolescents’ lives extend beyond thewalls of classrooms and the manicuredlawns of campus. Adolescents interactin their communities, consume ourmedia culture (replete with pro-drink-ing and pro-drug use messages), andare members of complex peer andfamily systems where issues of be-longingness and connectedness arecrucial.A school-based prevention programcan account for only some of the riskfactors that influence an adolescent’sdecision to drink or use other drugs.For this reason, school-based programswill always be limited. No single pro-gram component can prevent multiplehigh-risk behaviors. Rather, a set of co-ordinated, collaborative strategies andprograms is required in each schoolcommunity. An integrated approach isnecessary to impact the confluence of risk factors contributing to underagedrinking and other drug use. Multi-component strategies that include twoor more strategies together — such asfamily
and
student programs or schoolprevention activities
and
communityinitiatives — will have a greater impacton adolescent high-risk behavior.Prevention programs for substanceabuse are in place at almost everyschool in the United States. On aver-age, schools provide 14 preventionactivities, and 90 percent of publicschools provide some informationon alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and riskysexual behavior. However, preventionis more than programs. Prevention isboth policy and attitude — one withoutthe other usually causes a degree of institutional pathology.Schools that set aside the oldthinking — such as “We need a newprogram” or “Let’s bring in a speaker!”— and embrace a more ecologicalmodel that says, “What portfolio of activities and initiatives work welltogether?” will experience greater suc-cess in curbing underage drinking andother drug use. A prevention strategy
Successful Prevention of UnderageDrinking and Other Drug Use:
 An Integrated Approach
By Jeffrey S. Wolfsberg

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