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NIDA Res Monogr. 1983;47:115-40.

Prevention of adolescent substance abuse through the development of personal and social competence.


The initiation of substance use typically begins during adolescence and appears to be the result of the complex interplay of social, personality, cognitive, attitudinal, behavioral, and developmental factors. Traditional smoking, alcohol, and drug education programs have attempted to increase students' knowledge of the risks associated with using these substances in the hope that this would deter use. Other programs have attempted to enrich the personal and social development of students through what has been referred to as "affective" education. Unfortunately, the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the substance abuse prevention literature is that few of these programs have demonstrated any degree of success in terms of the actual prevention of substance use/abuse. Traditional educational approaches to substance abuse prevention appear to be inadequate because they are based on faulty assumptions and are too narrow in their focus. The "affective" education approaches, on the other hand, appear to have placed too little emphasis on the acquisition of the kind of skills that are likely to increase general personal competence and enable students to cope with the various interpersonal and intrapersonal pressures to begin using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. From the perspective of social learning theory (Bandura 1977) and problem behavior theory (Jessor and Jessor 1977), substance use is conceptualized as a socially learned, purposive, and functional behavior which is the result of the interplay of social (environmental) and personal factors. One potentially effective approach to substance abuse prevention might involve enhancing general personal competence and teaching adolescents the kind of problem-specific skills and knowledge which will increase their ability to resist the various forms of pro-substance-use social pressure. Brief reviews of the social skills training literature and the literature related to techniques for coping with anxiety not only provide evidence for the feasibility of teaching these kinds of skills, but also provide guidelines concerning the most effective approaches to use. Similarly, several of the most successful smoking prevention programs have included components designed to increase adolescents' ability to resist the various pro-use social pressures, particularly pressure from their peers. Our own research has involved testing a broad-spectrum prevention strategy which focuses both on the enhancement of personal competence through the development of basic "life skills" and the acquisition of problem-specific skills and knowledge designed to increase adolescents' ability to resist the various forms of social pressure to engage in the use of one or more substances.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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