Parents Enhance Education about Drugs and Alcohol

When a teen is confronted with a situation in which he is being offered alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, they sometimes experience a “deer in the headlights” reaction. While having been warned that these substances are a part of the high school social environment, many don’t know what to do when faced with pressure to try an illegal substance.

Adolescents are educated in health classes about the dangers of the substances, and often have a good foundation even before school education because their parents have spent time talking with them about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. A new study further illustrates the effectiveness of parent involvement and preventive education.

The study was conducted by Traci M. Schwinn and Stevven P. Schinke to evaluate the effectiveness of using a skills-based CD-ROM intervention. The exercise would be conducted both with and without parents. The objective of the study was to test this method to see if it would reduce alcohol use among urban youth when a follow-up was conducted six years later.

The researchers recruited 513 participants, who had a mean age of 10.8 years. The participants were randomly split into three groups. The first group would use a youth CD-ROM intervention along with a parent component. The second group would do the youth CD-ROM intervention only. The third group was the control group.

Each participant completed measures before the test, immediately after, and during annual follow-up appointments. The two arms that participated in the CD-ROM exercise completed the CD-ROM between pretest and posttest measures, and also received booster interventions between each follow-up measure.

The participants in each group that used the CD-ROM had a better record through their teen years with respect to substance use. With 80 percent of the initial participants retained at the 6-year follow-up, both CD-ROM groups reported less past-month alcohol and cigarette use. They also reported fewer instances of binge drinking and secondary consequences related to alcohol consumption.

Although the number of drinking peers in both the intervention groups and the control group was similar, the teens in the intervention groups indicated more developed skills at refusing alcohol.

In one area, parent involvement seems to have enhanced the teens’ ability to avoid substances. The past-month cigarette use was lower among the intervention-plus-parent group when compared with the intervention-only group.

The findings of the study indicate that CD-ROM interventions, with booster educational sessions and parent involvement may be very effective in reducing the use of substances by teens.