"We are not trying to teach them health facts . . . we are talking about things that are relevant to everyday life," says Botvin. The program is aimed at enhancing self-esteem, and teaches teenagers strategies for applying refusal skills in cases where they might be pressured into using drugs. "It gives them the confidence to deal with those situations and gives them the license to say 'no,'" Botvin says.
Life Skills has been used and tested extensively among white middle-class adolescents, and in recent years it has been applied to minority youths. Results from a study of that program are promising, indicating a drop in use of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol, and intention to use, among African-American and Hispanic adolescents.
Botvin says his research also points up the importance of continuity when it comes to prevention efforts. He and his research team have studied students over a six-year period and found that administering this kind of intervention in the 7th grade, followed up with supplemental sessions in the 8th and 9th grades, significantly reduces adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana through the end of high school.
-- Janet Firshein