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close this bookDrug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)
close this folderV. Effectiveness of Drug Education
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Evaluation of Drug Education through Group Methods

Most literature suggests that almost all methods of drug education which have been applied and evaluated in the past 20 years have had no more than marginal effects on attitudes and behaviour in relation to drug use. According to a review by Hanson (55), it can be concluded that Research has demonstrated that while it is relatively easy to increase drug knowledge, it is more difficult to modify attitudes. By far the largest number of studies have found no effects of drug education upon use. About ten years ago Schaps et al published a review of 127 drug abuse prevention programme evaluations. They concluded: Overall, the 127 programmes produced only minor effects on drug use behaviors and attitudes. The best of the available evaluations are tentatively encouraging about the efficacy of "new generation prevention programmes" 56).

55) Schaps E. et. al. Review of 127 Drug Abuse Prevention Programme Evaluations. In: Journal of Drug Issues. 1981. Vol. 11. pp. 17-43

56) Tobler, N. Meta-analysis of 143 Adolescent Drug Prevention Programmes: quantitative outcome results of programme participants compared to a control or a comparison group. In: Journal of Drug Issues. 1986. 16(4) pp. 537-567

Instead of informing and warning young people about the risks of taking drugs, it seems more effective to place a stronger emphasis on the development of social skills, on peer programmes and on improving factors such as the self-esteem of young people (61). In 1986 Tobler published a well known meta-analysis of drug education programmes in which she compared the results of 143 drug education programmes. The author divided these programmes into five categories.

- Knowledge only (Informing and warning approach).
- Affective only (Affective approach).
- Peer programmes (Psychosocial approach).
- Knowledge plus affective.
- Alternatives (to drugs) programmes.

Tobler divided the research findings into 5 variables: influence on knowledge, attitudes, drug use, skills and behaviour (including school performance, contacts with police etc.). Her analysis led to the following conclusions: Affective only scores low on all 5 variables. Knowledge plus affective shows an increase of factual knowledge and a slight positive effect on the other variables: attitude, use, skills and behaviour. Peer programmes score very high on all 5 variables and higher on each individual variable in comparison with any other approach. Moreover, only peer programmes result in behavioural change. Tobler concludes: Peer programmes are dramatically more effective than all other programmes. At the same time, she states that these results have only been shown in middle-class groups, other community groups scoring considerably lower on peer programmes.

In 1991, drug education experts of 16 European countries met to consider and evaluate the present state of drug education, mainly in the context of formal school education. Based on an extensive review of evaluation research and on their practical experiences in their countries (a/o. East-European), after three days of exchange of information and discussion they reached the following conclusions (57):

- Drug education is essentially effective; it should be implemented in all schools and adequate resources (funding, staff) must be provided.

- Appropriate drug education programmes should be provided for all age groups from the beginning of school attendance, including preschool.

- The methodology of drug education should be well structured and drug education programmes should employ participatory learning methods which acknowledge young people's needs and support the development of young people's responsibility for their own health.

- Peer group involvement and life-skills training should be enhanced.

- Drug education in schools should be integrated in a community approach involving parents, youth and sports clubs.

- In view of cultural differences, drug education programmes have to be designed for, or adapted to, each individual country and local situation.

- Drug education needs international quantitative and qualitative evaluation at different levels.

57) Drug Prevention in Schools. Final Report. European Conference on Drug Prevention. Lubeck Germany, 1991