Prevention Implications

Adolescent drug use must be considered in relation to the normal developmental challenges of adolescence. Because individuals use drugs in different ways for many reasons, no single prevention program will be effective with all groups at all ages. Understanding the factors that determine the link between the usage of one drug to the usage of another has important policy implications for developing prevention and educational programs. The sequential nature of drug use, as it is now understood, would indicate that prevention efforts targeted toward reducing or delaying adolescents' initiation into use of alcohol and cigarettes would reduce these adolescents' use of marijuana and other drugs. Similarly, efforts targeted toward reducing adolescents' marijuana use might reduce the rates of these adolescents' progression to ''higher'' stages of drug involvement. Prior drug use is a risk factor for progression; that is, the use of one drug may increase the likelihood of use of another drug, but it is not in itself a cause of further progression.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health reveal that there are many factors that determine whether teenagers will be predisposed to engage in harmful behaviors. The survey of 12,118 teenagers found that teenagers who felt close to their parents and siblings, teachers, and classmates were less likely to engage in risky behaviors. (Resnick, 1997)

Educating young people on the dangers of drugs has had some measurable success. A school-based series of classes on the dangers of anabolic steroid use appeared to help reduce steroid use among teenage athletes. Researchers evaluated seven weekly, 50-minute classes that gave 702 teenage football players comprehensive education in the dangers of steroids and alternatives to their use. This intervention improved the athletes' ability to drop steroid use when compared to a group of 804 athletes who just received a pamphlet about steroids. Athletes often use steroids to boost their performance, but the drugs can have dangerous side effects. (Goldberg, et al., 1996)

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