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Substance Abuse Prevention Messages Better Received Among Teenagers in the Form of Media Campaigns and Curriculum

According to the new study a well designed community campaign can dramatically cut marijuana and alcohol use among young teens. The study was conducted in 32 schools in 16 communities around the country.// As a result of this campaign half the number of students who began using marijuana and alcohol during the two years of the project stopped the habit when compared to students in communities without the program.

Michael Slater, principal investigator of the study and professor of communication at Ohio State University commended on the effect the program had on the teens. The campaign included print materials, such as posters, promotional items such as book covers, tray liners, T-shirts, water bottles, rulers and lanyards. Slater said the success could be attributed to the well-researched theme, developed by study co-author Kathleen Kelly, professor of marketing at Colorado State University.

Be Under your own Influence is the theme which speaks to teens about the establishment of their own identities in the ever changing world. It mainly talks about being independent and in control. Office of National Drug Control Policy for its national campaign adopted the theme Above the Influence. The result of the campaigns will be published in the journal Health Education Research: Theory and Practice.

The study involved 16 small communities in all regions of the United States. In these communities, volunteers provided posters to local businesses and organizations, organized anti-drug events, and provided information to the local media. The rest of the communities had no media program of any kind. In all, 4,216 students participated. They completed questionnaires that examined their alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use. They were surveyed four times over two years. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Results showed that in communities with the Be under Your Own Influence campaign, only about half as many teens reported taking up use of alcohol or marijuana, compared to teens in communities with no program. In schools without the media campaign or classes, more than 20 % of the students reported having tried alcohol and/or marijuana. But in schools with the media campaign and curriculum the percentages were just slightly more than 10 %.

Slater said that media and curriculum appeared to have independent effects on lowering drug and alcohol use. The media programs had a larger impact with respect to marijuana than did the school curriculum because students take a course, but after it is over its influence starts to fade. Kelly said that the researchers were surprised and are continuing similar research projects to see if the effects can be replicated and improved.


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