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The Substance Abuse Prevention Handbook and the accompanying Curriculum Builder within the Web-based Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum Guide were developed in response to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) announcement calling for additional work in the area of disseminating drug use prevention research findings. Together, this Handbook and the Curriculum Builder seek to arm prevention practitioners from a variety of settings with usable tools to incorporate research-based strategies proven effective for substance abuse prevention. Potential users include teachers, health educators, curriculum developers, school administrators, clergy, youth group leaders, social workers, and counselors. If you are responsible for substance abuse prevention and have the authority to guide what is contained in prevention curricula, this Handbook and the accompanying Web-based Curriculum Builder are aimed at you.

A great deal of scholarly work has been done on the prevention of substance abuse among children and adolescents. Substance abuse research findings indicate that:
  • Interactive activities are critical teaching tools.

  • Programs—and hence the activities within programs—tailored to the characteristics of the target group are more effective than those that are not.

  • Children and adolescents learn in different ways and, thus, teaching using different media and methods is preferred over a traditional didactic approach.

  • Substance abuse prevention is most effective when it incorporates six content areas;

    • Refusal skills
    • Social skills
    • Normative education
    • Perceived harm
    • Social influences
    • Protective factors
These findings have led to the development of a multitude of substance abuse prevention materials and activities that are available to prevention leaders. However, what is lacking is the set of blueprints for understanding what research has demonstrated to be most effective and the practical applications of those findings with regard to identifying those activities and materials that are most likely to have the desired effects in a given target group. This Handbook and the accompanying Curriculum Builder serve as that set of blueprints, allowing you to build a substance abuse prevention curriculum customized to a specific target population using the information and tools that have emerged from years of research.

Together, the Handbook and the Curriculum Builder provide the means to an even deeper understanding of the young people with whom you work, including their background, their struggles, and their strengths and weaknesses. After reading this Handbook and using the Curriculum Builder, you will be able to: 1) gather information that will inform you about your specific target group; 2) associate a number of facts to the specific demographic characteristics of your target group; 3) select the most appropriate substance abuse prevention activities based on the information collected about your target group to form a targeted curriculum; and 4) implement the selected activities in the most meaningful way possible. This Handbook is not, however, intended as a tool for the development of a program that includes policies, community outreach, and health- or treatment-related services.

For ease of reading, we have found it simplest to refer in most places to the prevention practitioner as the "prevention leader"; to the setting as a "classroom"; to children and adolescents as "youth"; and to the group as the "target population" or "target group." More often than not, we refer to "substance abuse" rather than other commonly used terms because:
  1. It conveys the abuse of substances that may not be thought of as drugs (e.g., inhalants).

  2. It is the inappropriate use of substances (i.e., abuse rather than use) that we are trying to prevent—we are not trying to prevent the appropriate use of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.

  3. Prevention leaders working with youth have told us they prefer substance abuse to other terms.

Still, ambiguity is impossible to avoid completely. It should be clear that we believe that underage use of even legal substances (e.g., alcohol and tobacco) is inappropriate and should, therefore, be an aim of substance abuse prevention. Likewise, there are times when it makes sense to distinguish between use of a substance (e.g., a 17-year-old sharing a friend's beer) and abuse of a substance (e.g., regular binge drinking), even though both behaviors are illegal and thus perceived by many to constitute "abuse."

Finally, if and when we refer to "drug" use and/or abuse, the word drug is meant to refer to illicit drugs as well as alcohol, tobacco, and other substances used for the purpose of intoxication.

This Handbook and the Curriculum Builder provide prevention leaders with two complementary tools that greatly simplify the process of assembling a substance abuse prevention curriculum. Together, they make possible what has previously been considered by many prevention leaders to be desirable but too time-consuming and cumbersome—the development of a curriculum that is uniquely customized to the specific needs of their target group.

Using the Handbook and Curriculum Builder Together

This Handbook and the Web-based Curriculum Builder are designed to work together to help you plan, customize, and implement substance abuse prevention curricula that meet the specific needs of your target group—the Handbook providing the foundations needed for substance abuse prevention planning, development, and implementation; the Curriculum Builder simplifying the process of identifying, selecting, and customizing substance abuse prevention activities within given time and financial constraints.

In the Handbook you will find the scientific foundations of substance abuse prevention in school- or community-based settings, guidelines for conducting needs assessments of the target population, as well as information to assist in the selection and customization of substance abuse prevention activities, including risk and protective factors for drug use, groups at high risk, and gender, geographic, and race/ethnicity and cultural considerations.

Each chapter makes a unique contribution to the collective knowledge required for assembling a curriculum that addresses the elements determined by current substance abuse prevention research to be essential to successful substance abuse prevention efforts.

Chapter 1 provides a general overview of the substance abuse problem in the United States and highlights the toll that substance abuse takes on society. It describes the substance use prevalence among youth, and explains the role of prevention in combating these continuing and pervasive problems.

You will learn what substance abuse prevention interactive activities are, why they are important, and how they fit into a substance abuse prevention curriculum in Chapter 2. This chapter also contains an explanation of the difference between prevention programs and prevention curricula, how they can work together, and the essential elements and content areas that substance abuse prevention research has demonstrated to be most effective in preventing substance abuse among young people.

In Chapter 3, you will be instructed on how to gather the information you will need to plan a substance abuse prevention curriculum. You will learn what information to collect, why, and how to collect it from your target group members, their community, and your institution. This information will help you identify your institutional resources and requirements and your target population's needs with respect to substance abuse prevention education, risk factors, and specific substance use problem(s). Chapter 3 will then guide you through the process of how to use the information collected, along with background information found in Chapters 4, 5, and 6, to select and customize activities in your curriculum. This process is greatly simplified through the Web-based Curriculum Builder tool. The Curriculum Builder will identify activities meeting the criteria you input, allowing you to select and customize activities that are, in many cases, literally at your fingertips. As you select activities to include in your curriculum, the Curriculum Builder keeps track of the content, national health education standards, and learning styles addressed by the selected activities, as well as the time and financial resources required for their implementation, allowing you to adjust the curriculum so that it precisely matches your needs and the needs of your target group.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 contain important background and reference material. Your target population and the needs you identify through the assessment process will serve as guides for which sections of these chapters to examine more closely.

In Chapter 4, you will find a thorough explanation of risk and protective factors for substance abuse, as well as information and practical points regarding specific high-risk groups. In addition, Chapter 4 describes a number of facts related to youth's age and development, gender, and geographic location which are in turn associated with substance abuse and which have implications for the selection and implementation of prevention activities.

Chapter 5 examines race/ethnicity and culture as they relate to substance abuse. More specifically, this chapter describes how substance abuse prevalence varies among young people from different ethnic/cultural groups in the United States, cultural norms and values of different minority populations, and the implications of race/ethnicity and culture on the selection and implementation of substance abuse prevention activities.

Chapter 6 describes the process of substance abuse, dependence, and addiction, as well as the many factors that place young people at risk for such conditions. In addition, Chapter 6 describes each major category of drugs of abuse, including their methods of use, effects, associated dangers, addictive potential, and prevalence of use among youth.

Finally, Chapter 7 describes how to apply the knowledge gained about your target group to the implementation of the activities in your curriculum. In addition to providing guidelines and suggestions, Chapter 7 walks you through this process with a hypothetical "mock" target group. It concludes with practical guidelines on implementation, including confidentiality, group facilitation, and behavior management.

Together, this Handbook and the Web-based Curriculum Builder will serve as your instructors and guides through the process of assembling, customizing, and implementing your substance abuse prevention curriculum. The result of this process is a one-of-a-kind curriculum, specifically customized to the prevention needs, demographics, and other unique characteristics of your target population.

  Next Chapter: Chapter 1
  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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