Drug addiction :: Boosting social skills reduces teenage drug use and addiction

School-based programmes that develop individual young people’s social skills are the best way to reduce drug use.

Drug addiction is difficult to escape from, and people who do break their habit find it easy to relapse. Consequently it is important to stop people ever becoming addicted in the first place.

Many adolescents experiment with drugs for pleasure or acceptance within peer groups, but even occasional drug use can lead some individuals to addiction. As most use starts within teenage years, school is an appropriate place to consider introducing policies that aim to reduce addiction.

The Cochrane Review Authors studied 32 reports, mainly from the USA, and classified the results according to the sorts of interventions used. They found three main types of intervention. One aimed to combat use by increasing pupils’ knowledge of the damaging effects of drugs. Another sought to build self-esteem or self-awareness in the hope that this would prevent individuals feeling that they needed to use drugs in order to be accepted or estimated by the peers. A third approach employed peer-based training that included strong role models and equipped people with the skills needed to ‘say no’.

The programmes aimed at giving social skills worked best.

“Programmes which develop individuals’ social skills are the most effective form of school-level intervention in preventing early drug use,” says Professor Fabrizio Faggiano, who works in the Department of Medical Science at the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy. “Applying this programmes at a school-level would prevent 1 out of 5 new initiators, which corresponds to a 20% decrease in the prevalence of drug use,” he concluded.

The authors believe that programs that only provide knowledge of what happens if you take drugs, or simply trying to build up pupils’ self-esteem, should be not be used regularly in schools. Their use should be limited to the occasions when researchers are performing it as part of a trial.

Leave a Comment