Innovative Peer-to-Peer Drug Prevention Initiative Shows Promising Results with High School Students
As the U.S. is facing its most challenging drug epidemic in history, the need to prevent adolescence drug misuse is imperative. For the past two years, Mentor Foundation USA and George Washington University have piloted an innovative drug prevention peer-to-peer initiative at three high schools in Columbia County, NY.
The program, which engages youth through social media is showing some promising results in terms of shifts in attitudes towards drugs and intent to use. Read the published report, or download as PDF.
The interactive “multi-media” initiative is called Living the Example (LTE), a program that incorporates messages for prevention specifically designed to counteract the misinformation adolescents have about drugs and alcohol. Messages are framed to promote the benefits of prevention behaviors.
“This approach to branding, an alternative, healthy behavior, or ‘counter-marketing’ as it has been termed in tobacco control, has been highly effective and is recognized as one of the main elements in successful prevention programs, such as in tobacco control,” says Principal Investigator, Dr. Doug Evans, a pioneer in the use of this strategy. Dr. Evans is a Professor of Prevention and Community Health & Global Health, with Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
Youth Ambassadors are trained to create LTE branded prevention messages, disseminate them via social media platforms, and engage peers in their preferred social networks, with the intention of increasing peer interaction around the brand’s core messaging.
Positive receptivity to LTE messages was associated with some evidence of reduced self-reported drug use intentions, specifically for marijuana use, and reports of intent to use any drug. Among youth who reported exposure and receptivity to LTE, they reported a significant decrease in marijuana use intentions. The most common overall reason for drug use among all respondents was family stress (81.3%), boredom (40%) and academic stress (40%).
“Findings from the study suggest that peer-to-peer substance use prevention via social media is a promising strategy, especially given the low cost and low burden as an intervention channel, which schools, communities, and prevention programs can use as an approach, even in low resource settings,” says Michaela Pratt, President of Mentor Foundation USA.
“Through our international network, Mentor Foundation shares over 20 years of global experience in best prevention practices, and Mentor Foundation USA has always been a pioneer in empowering young people to become their own advocates for drug prevention.”
This program was generously supported by The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Rip Van Winkle Foundation, among local foundations in Columbia County.
Mentor Foundation USA is a member affiliate of Mentor International, which was founded in 1994 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden and the World Health Organization and is the largest network of its kind for evidence based programs that prevent drug abuse among youth.
Collectively, Mentor has implemented projects in over 80 countries impacting more than 6 million youth. Mentor Foundation USA is a Delaware registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.