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Practical Points

Sections:

Practical Points: Gender Differences
  • If the target audience comprises only one sex, take advantage of this by targeting activities to the risk factors specific to that group.

  • Address and perhaps provide alternative outlets to the reported underlying motivations for substance abuse among female adolescents: enhancing mood, decreasing inhibitions, enhancing sexual experiences, relieving tension, and losing weight.

  • Address and provide alternative outlets to underlying motivations for substance abuse among male adolescents: enhancement of social status and sensation seeking.

  • Assist youths in developing peer groups that match their own strengths and skills.

  • When discussing the physical effects of substances, ensure that female participants understand their increased vulnerability to these effects.

  • Make an effort to engage adolescent boys with low perceived scholastic competence.


Practical Points: Grades K to 3
  • Focus on the present regarding things young children know about or have experienced.

  • Place little emphasis on evaluating how well children recall information or perform activities.

  • Present messages in an open and supportive atmosphere; keep information simple and direct.

  • Provide opportunities for children to develop a sense of self-confidence.

  • Provide opportunities for children to build their skills in decision making and problem solving.

  • Help children improve communication skills, especially with family and peers.

  • Help children understand that everyone needs help or guidance sometimes and that asking for help when it is needed is a strong, positive behavior that should be developed by everyone.

  • Provide some basic information about drugs and their use, especially inhalants and the dangers of their use.

  • Foster a learning environment in which children feel comfortable asking questions and making decisions and are encouraged to be responsible for themselves and others.

  • Do not glamorize or instill inappropriate fear about drugs.

  • Emphasize that most people do not use drugs.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1990.

Practical Points: Grades 4 to 6
  • When discussing the negative consequences of substance abuse, focus on those that are short-term—such as bad breath, poor performance in sports, etc., that can result from smoking.

  • Focus on the substances children are apt to use first: tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

  • Encourage open and frank discussions of concerns about drugs and drug use, including inhalants and the dangers inherent in their use.

  • Focus on life skills (problem solving, resisting peer pressure, developing friendships, and coping with stress).

  • Stress that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not use drugs.

  • Emphasize the development of self-esteem.

  • Encourage the development of healthy leisure activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism.

  • Emphasize the development of personal and civic responsibility.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1990.
Practical Points: Grades 7 and 8
  • When discussing the negative consequences of substance abuse, focus on those that are short-term—such as bad breath, poor performance in sports, etc. that can result from smoking.

  • Encourage frank discussions about concerns related to drugs and drug use.

  • Focus on life skills such as solving problems, resisting peer pressure, developing healthy friendships, coping with stress, and communicating with adults.

  • Avoid glamorizing drug use through the acceptance of drug-using behavior by some folk heroes such as musicians, actors, and athletes.

  • Emphasize that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not use drugs.

  • Encourage the development of personal and civic responsibility.

  • Emphasize the importance of developing self-esteem.

  • Encourage the development of healthy leisure activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism, as a way to cope with stress.

  • Promote the establishment of worthwhile life goals, such as continuing education and developing work skills that will permit a legal source of income.

  • Emphasize laws and the consequences of breaking them.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1990.
Practical Points: Grades 9 to 12
  • Encourage open and frank discussions about concerns related to drugs and drug use.

  • Focus on life skills such as solving problems, coping with stress, maintaining healthy friendships, and communicating with a wide range of adults.

  • Avoid accepting, and thus glamorizing, drug-using behavior by "heroes" such as musicians, actors, and athletes.

  • Stress that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not use drugs.

  • Encourage the development of personal and civic responsibility.

  • Emphasize the development of self-confidence.

  • Encourage healthful activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism, as a way to cope with stress.

  • Promote the establishment of worthwhile life goals, such as continuing education and developing work skills, that will permit a legal source of income.

Source: Johnston et al., 1990
Practical Points: Inner-City/Urban Communities
Drug use prevention activities for youths living in inner-city/urban communities should:
  • Emphasize that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not sell and/or use drugs.

  • Demystify the perception that drug dealing is a lucrative earning option.

  • Use positive role models.

  • Teach youth how to critically analyze the messages used by the media to normalize (i.e., portray the use of alcohol and tobacco as a routine, natural part of everyday activities) and glamorize (i.e., associate tobacco and alcohol use with desirable qualities such as popularity, independence, maturity, fun, celebration, relaxation, and escape from reality) alcohol and tobacco use.

  • Emphasize the immediate and long-range benefits of abstention.

  • Increase the awareness of youth about the negative impact of alcohol and other drug use on the residents of their community, the temptations to abuse alcohol and other drugs by residents of their community, and the effects of poor diet and alcohol and other drug use on the body.

  • Encourage healthful leisure activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism, as a way to cope with stress. Healthful leisure activities directly related to drug use prevention could include creating a videotape documentary and/or music video or audiotape with a prevention theme.

  • Emphasize the establishment of worthwhile life goals, such as continuing education and developing work skills that will permit a legal source of income.

  • Focus on life skills such as solving problems, coping with stress, maintaining healthy friendships, and communicating with a wide range of adults.


Practical Points: Suburban Communities
Drug use prevention activities for youth living in suburban communities should:
  • Emphasize that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not use drugs.

  • Educate youth about the dangers of gangs.

  • Incorporate gang prevention strategies, such as identifying and assigning adults to serve as "protectors" for at-risk youth.

  • Provide positive role models.

  • Emphasize the immediate and long-range benefits of abstention and/or delaying use.

  • Increase the awareness of youth about the effects of poor diet and alcohol and other drug use on the body.

  • Encourage healthful leisure activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism, as a way to cope with stress.

  • Focus on life skills such as solving problems, coping with stress, maintaining healthy friendships, and communicating with parents and other adults.


Practical Points: Rural Communities
Drug use prevention activities for youth living in rural communities should:
  • Emphasize that most people, including the majority of people their own age, do not use drugs.

  • Emphasize the immediate and long-range benefits of abstention.

  • Provide positive role models.

  • Celebrate the local culture as well as introduce youth to other cultures.

  • Teach youth how to critically analyze the messages used by the media to normalize (i.e., portray the use of alcohol and tobacco as a routine, natural part of everyday activities) and glamorize (i.e., associate tobacco and alcohol use with desirable qualities such as popularity, independence, maturity, fun, celebration, relaxation, and escape from reality) alcohol and tobacco, especially smokeless tobacco, use.

  • Stress the value of education and the financial benefits of attendance or success in school, and stimulate youth to raise their educational aspirations.

  • Emphasize the establishment of worthwhile life goals, such as continuing education and developing work skills that will permit a legal source of income.

  • Increase the awareness of youth about the effects that poor diet and alcohol and other drug use have on the body.

  • Encourage healthful leisure activities, such as sports, music, art, clubs, and volunteerism, as a way to cope with stress.

  • Focus on life skills such as solving problems, coping with stress, maintaining healthy friendships, and communicating with a wide range of adults.


Practical Points: Reaching Youth of Different Racial/Ethnic/Cultural Backgrounds
When working with members of different cultures, frame actions in the styles, norms, and behaviors of those cultures. In groups with mixed cultural backgrounds, pull from those backgrounds, inviting members of the target audience to reflect on and share cultural norms. Some attitudes and values that might be successfully incorporated into interactive prevention activities include:
  • The level of importance placed on the individual versus the community.

  • Generally accepted roles for women, men, and children.

  • The preferred family structure—nuclear or extended, one generation or multigenerational.

  • The relative importance of folk wisdom, life experience, and common sense in comparison with formal education and advanced degrees.

  • The way wealth is measured—in material goods, such as money and property, or in personal relationships, such as those with children, extended family support systems, and friendships.

  • The society's views in terms of revering its youth as the promise of the future or its elders as the repositories of wisdom.

  • The way time is used and valued (e.g., importance of timeliness).

  • The society's adherence to tradition or openness to experimentation.

  • Linkage or separation between religious and/or spiritual life and secular life.

  • Favorite and forbidden foods.

  • Manner of dress and adornment.


Practical Points: Multicultural Youth
When dealing with a multicultural target population:
  • Use materials for substance abuse prevention efforts that reflect cultural diversity.

  • Use some of the new textbooks and educational materials that address multiculturalism to help children understand cultural diversity.

  • Use books and other materials that depict multiracial characters.

  • Provide toys for younger children that include dolls with multiracial characteristics.

  • Identify multiracial heroes such as Frederick Douglass, James Audubon, Maria Tallchief, Paula Abdul, and Tiger Woods.

  • Include multiracial persons as role models when selecting speakers.

  • Use ethnic holidays and celebrations as the basis for group discussions or problem-solving exercises related to substance abuse.

  • Have children and adolescents participate in joint activities (e.g., cooperative learning).

  • Highlight the many common threads among the diversity of cultures in an effort to create pride in sharing and an atmosphere of meaningful articulation among the various ethnic groups, leading to the lessening of tension and conflict.

  • Realize that not all prevention activities require a "United Nations" approach, with each subgroup represented visually. The activities should, however, be inclusive, and none should contain elements that are offensive or inappropriate to any segment of the population. For instance, if an activity is specifically designed to reach African-American youth within the target group, the activity content should also be appropriate for other cultures in the class.

  • Be aware there may be group dynamics (e.g., silence, power struggles) that are race based.

  • Confront the issues of racism and discrimination directly and honestly.

  • Let participants "tell their stories" if they wish.


Practical Points: African-American Youth
When implementing interactive activities for African-American youth, you should:
  • Avoid stereotypes.

  • Build a relationship with each member of your African-American target population. The goal is not only for you to become meaningful and important to each of them, but to make each youth in this group feel valued for his or her potential and as a person.

  • Take into account the existing skills of each youth in your target group and move each along at a pace that is demanding but not defeating. Challenge them, because challenging youth affirms their potential, credits their achievements, and inspires them.

  • Praise and use as positive role models contemporary and historical figures who have specific significance for African-American youth.

  • Highlight African-American contributions in the development of the United States and the emergence of world civilization.

  • Include African-American history and cultural rituals; communicate to African-American youth the rich cultural heritage they share with people of African ancestry all over the world.

  • Incorporate mechanisms designed to heighten spiritual awareness and sensitivity among African-American youth.

  • Incorporate African-American art forms (e.g., drama, vocal and instrumental music, poetry, creative writing) and culture-specific curricula into substance abuse prevention efforts.

  • Encourage general civic values, but also support practices and events that promote ethnic/cultural pride and higher self-esteem.

  • Include positive messages (e.g., it is "cool" to be drug-free).

  • Hold a poster or rap song contest.

  • Involve the target audience in the development of substance abuse prevention campaign themes and messages and/or design and implementation of additional interactive activities.

  • Remember the following characteristics that may be shared by African-American youth: awareness of skin color and racial differences; sense of self-reliance; strong "people orientation"; sensitivity to nonverbal cues; and well-developed verbal and motor skills.

  • Provide youth problem-solving skills.

  • Help youth plan a positive, realistic future and promote this with a positive and consistent mentor.


Practical Points: American Indian/Alaska Native Youth
When implementing interactive activities for American Indian and Alaska Native youth:
  • Avoid stereotypes.

  • Identify and apply cultural norms and traditions that emphasize pride and health in order to discourage substance abuse.

  • Determine the particular American Indian or Alaska Native characteristics of your target group, such as tribalism, Indian identity, spirituality, acculturation, and biculturalism. Activities must reflect both ethnic-specific and tribal-specific components.

  • Praise and use as role models contemporary and historical figures who are of specific significance for each American Indian/Alaska Native tribe.

  • Highlight American Indian/Alaska Native contributions to the development of the United States and the emergence of world civilization.

  • Include American Indian/Alaska Native cultural rituals.

  • Encourage general civic values, but also support practices and events that promote ethnic cultural pride and higher self-esteem among American Indians/Alaska Natives.

  • Understand that there is no single explanation for substance abuse among Native cultures.

  • Include positive messages (e.g., it is a matter of pride to be drug free).

  • Promote respect for elders and promote interest in disappearing traditions.

  • Acknowledge that there may be culturally acceptable use of a substance in specific settings, such as peyote use during Native American ceremonies or tobacco use in ceremonies.

  • Facilitate skills training for achieving bicultural competence to offset pressures that might increase risk of substance abuse. Bicultural competence allows American Indian/Alaska Native youth to integrate majority cultural values, norms, and behaviors without losing their identification with and respect for traditional values.

  • Target the interventions, according to experts' recommendations, at reducing substance abuse initiation among youth as well as reducing actual use among older users. Implementation of substance abuse prevention activities must begin at an early age to be effective because of the very young age at which substance abuse is initiated among some American Indians/Alaska Natives.

  • Involve the target audience in the development of substance abuse prevention campaign themes and messages and/or the design and implementation of additional interactive activities.


Practical Points: Asian/Pacific Islander-American Youth
When implementing interactive activities for Asian/Pacific Islander-American youth:
  • Avoid stereotypes.

  • Help young people develop refusal skills that incorporate the cultural norms of subtlety and nonconfrontational communication.

  • Emphasize the role of parents and cultural strengths within the family.

  • Recognize the role of elders and promote respect for them.

  • Promote interest in disappearing traditions.

  • Emphasize the varying religious belief systems and philosophical orientations found among the diverse Asian/Pacific Islander populations.

  • Use the target group's traditional culture as a basis for substance abuse prevention messages within the interactive activity and as a source for communication strategies and channels.

  • Establish a clear definition of substance abuse when considering substances that are indigenous to some Asian/Pacific Islander cultures, such as betel nut, kava, and sakau.

  • Praise and use as role models contemporary and historical heroes and figures who are of specific significance for each Asian/Pacific Islander subgroup.

  • Highlight Asian/Pacific Islander contributions in the development of the United States and the emergence of world civilization.

  • Include positive messages (e.g., it is "cool" to be drug free).

  • Involve the target audience in the development of substance abuse prevention campaign themes and messages and/or the design and implementation of additional interactive activities.


Practical Points: Hispanic/Latino Youth
When implementing interactive activities for Hispanic/Latino youth:
  • Avoid stereotypes.

  • Include Hispanic/Latino cultural rituals (e.g., a quinceañera scene—a coming of age ceremony for a teenage girl).

  • Show how family and cultural values conflict with the risk factors Hispanic/Latinos face.

  • Include positive messages (e.g., it is "cool" to be drug free).

  • Promote respect for elders and interest in disappearing traditions.

  • Listen to and respect youth and promote this attitude among Hispanic/Latino parents.

  • Facilitate sharing and discussion of experiences.

  • Promote the importance of extended kinship (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins) in family relations; also promote nonfamily forms of close relationships between individuals, such as compadrazgo and friendship.

  • Promote communal values and neighborly attitudes, such as barrios (specific areas in the community and/or neighborhood), fiestas, and traditions, and support the forms of extended social networking that are central to Hispanic/Latino culture.

  • Encourage general civic values, but also support practices and events that promote ethnic cultural pride and higher self-esteem among Hispanic/Latinos.

  • Praise and use as role models contemporary and historical heroes and figures who are of specific significance for each Hispanic/Latino subgroup.

  • Highlight Hispanic/Latino contributions in the development of the United States and the emergence of world civilization.

  • Involve the target audience in the development of substance abuse prevention campaign themes and messages and/or the design and implementation of additional interactive activities.

  • Expect many Hispanic/Latino students to prefer conformity, peer-oriented learning, a more kinesthetic learning style, a high degree of structure, using peak energy in the afternoon or late morning, and variety over routine (Griggs & Dunn, 1996).


Practical Points: Non-Hispanic White Youth
When selecting and implementing interactive activities for non-Hispanic white youth:
  • Focus on individualism in making choices and decisions.

  • Teach and practice direct refusal skills; they are particularly appropriate for non-Hispanic white youth.

  • Talk about how decisions made today can affect future opportunities.

  • Appeal to their goal orientation by offering opportunities for goal-oriented pledges.

  • Emphasize that substance abuse compromises the ability to be the best one can be.


Practical Points: At-Risk Populations

Practical Points: Children of Alcoholics and Other Substance Abusers

  • Parents should be encouraged to convey clear nonuse messages to children and adolescents, particularly with regard to smoking.

  • The following are recommendations for prevention programs for COAs (Emshoff & Price, 1999):

    • Teach children and adolescents the disease model of alcoholism; this may help them feel less self-blame if their parents are alcoholics.

    • Help adolescents understand their risk for alcoholism; it is important that they know that they will not definitely become alcoholics if they drink but that they are at increased risk.

    • Address misconceptions about positive effects of drinking on thinking and social performance.

    • Help children and adolescents develop and practice skills to cope with their situation. These might include looking for external support from a nonfamily member and developing survival skills, such as knowing how to cope with being in a car with an intoxicated parent, explaining irregular parental behavior to friends, and other decision-making, problem-solving, and communication skills.

    • Acknowledge that depression, anger, guilt, and mistrust are common among COAs.

    • Encourage and support involvement in healthy extracurricular activities that can help youth build a positive peer group, enhance self-esteem, and increase life skills.



Practical Points: Youth With Learning and/or Behavioral Disorders

  • To the extent possible, address the risk factors most likely to result from a learning disability or behavioral disorder: academic failure, rejection by peers, depression, and low self-esteem.

  • Since some theories suggest that youth with untreated ADHD experience increased risk for substance abuse because they self-medicate to control their condition, evaluation of treatment options for these youth may be warranted.

  • Adjust curricula to the learning and attention needs of the target group, perhaps incorporating more kinetic/movement-oriented activities and greater participation by the audience.

  • If attention problems are observed, follow up with appropriate personnel to ensure that the individual has the appropriate support in order to receive maximum benefit from the school or community organization's program.



Practical Points: Abused and/or Neglected Youth

  • If abuse or neglect of a child or adolescent is suspected, report it immediately to appropriate school, organizational, and community personnel. It is not required that abuse or neglect be known—just suspected.

  • Be aware that in any given group of youth, there are likely to be youth with histories of abuse or neglect that are unknown to the prevention leader. Providing a safe and nurturing environment where space is permitted for young people to share such information with a trusted adult is important.

  • To the extent to which it is known that members of a given target group have histories of abuse and/or neglect, help youth develop and practice coping and drug refusal skills, understanding that there may be social and emotional problems that make acquisition of these skills more difficult for them.



Practical Points: Economically Disadvantaged Youth

  • Focus on building protective factors, such as connections with adults and bonding to prosocial institutions.

  • Take advantage of culture to discourage substance abuse in economically disadvantaged communities (see Chapter 5).

  • Assist in the development of social skills and encourage participation in extracurricular activities.

  • Emphasize a "social norms" approach; it can be surprising for youth living in communities where substance abuse is relatively common to learn that substance abuse among their peers is not as prevalent as they may have thought.



Practical Points: Homeless and Runaway Youth

  • For runaway youth, it may be helpful to follow the practical points for youth who are abused and/or neglected.

  • Provide a personal space within the school or community organization that is the youth's own and mark the space with a symbol of his or her identity.

  • Support identity development and, to the extent possible, encourage participation in extracurricular activities.

  • Establish a predictable and structured environment (Heflin, 1991).



Practical Points: School Dropouts

  • Community organizations working with youth who have dropped out of school may, in the absence of more specific information, want to focus more on illicit drug use prevention.

  • Focus on a wider range of risk and protective factors than with in-school youth.

  • Emphasize to administrators the importance of substance abuse prevention as a factor strongly associated with academic success.



Practical Points: Suicidal Youth and Youth With Serious Emotional Disturbances

  • Be aware that youth who are known to be heavily involved in substance abuse are at greater risk for suicide.

  • Any suspicion of suicidal behavior or severe depression should be promptly addressed by a mental health professional.

  • Because youth who are suicidal or have serious emotional disturbances need professional help—ideally from a mental health professional—substance abuse prevention should be secondary to the more immediate need to stabilize the young person.



Practical Points: Youth With Physical Disabilities

  • To the extent possible, conduct prevention activities that specifically address the unique social and emotional needs of disabled youth, particularly social skills to limit isolation.

  • Place special emphasis on the dangers of combining substances of abuse with prescription medications.

  • Encourage and support participation in recreational activities; advocate for accessibility of extracurricular opportunities.



Practical Points: Sexual-Minority Youth

  • Because the factors that place GLB youth at risk are associated with the social stigma of homosexuality, suggested ways to help these youth include efforts to reduce such stigmatization.

  • Peer-based interventions, peer support groups, and assistance with development of social skills are among suggested approaches that may be particularly effective for this population (Garofalo et al., 1998).

  • At a minimum, prevention leaders should intervene when they observe homophobic behavior and/or language.



Practical Points: Users of Alcohol, Tobacco, and/or Marijuana

  • At a minimum, prevention leaders should address current use of these substances, particularly among younger youth, and encourage cessation.

  • As mentioned previously, it may be helpful to explicitly discourage current drug abusers from sharing their drugs with friends.

  • The proportion of users and the rapidity with which they become dependent on cocaine lend urgency to efforts to prevent initiation of cocaine use and use of the gateway drugs that can lead to it.



Practical Points: High-Risk Youth

  • High-risk youth may have low literacy skills and relatively poor role models for inductive or deductive reasoning and may, therefore, have difficulty dealing with abstractions, even as they mature.

  • High-risk youth may not hear or interpret messages in the same way as other youth, and such children/adolescents may need special messages. For instance, the message "crack kills" may terrify the youth whose parent uses crack. Since fear can trigger denial, the youth is likely to forget this message.

  • Teenagers who are in trouble related to substance abuse need concrete, direct messages that state that substance use by young people should be stopped because it is illegal and harmful and that it is important to the community (and to the caregiver, parent, or friend) that the young person not be hurt in this way. Messages directed at these teenagers need to convey the sense that youths sometimes need help to stop substance use and that caring help is available. They also need direct messages aimed at demystifying drugs.

  • Celebrity ex-addicts and recovering individuals should not be used as models to promote prevention in general, but they are particularly contraindicated for high-risk youth, since these youth tend toward negative identification. In other words, they may forget the message and develop instead the idea that the celebrity was great even when he or she was on drugs.

  • Young people tend to perceive that alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine improve sexual performance. It is important to identify such youth perceptions and convey messages to counter these myths.

  • High-risk teenagers may reject help out of fear and lack of trust; skepticism and distrust based on their personal history; past promises that were not kept; and previously tried strategies that failed. Youth who have used alcohol or other drugs tend to be skeptical of danger messages related to drug use.


Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1990.

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Previous Chapter: Chapter 7  
  Handbook Preface
Chapter 1: The Nature and Extent of Substance Abuse in the U.S.
Chapter 2: Foundations of Substance Abuse Prevention Curricula
Chapter 3: Needs Assessment and Curriculum Development
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7: Curriculum Implementation
Practical Points


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