Designing an Effective Prevention Program

Principles Underlying the RAND Smoking and Drug Prevention Experiment

by Phyllis L. Ellickson


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This paper describes the basis for Project ALERT (Adolescent Learning Experiences in Resistance Training), a program to deter the use of drugs and cigarettes in adolescents. Derived from the literature on adolescent drug use and health promotion theories, the curriculum seeks to motivate resistance to pro-drug influences and teach appropriate resistance skills. Its specific content, adapted to the seventh grader's developmental capacities, is organized by the Health Belief Model. It stresses learning to resist social pressures, the personal consequences of using drugs, and the benefits of resisting them. Principles drawn from Bandura's self-efficacy theory of behavior change inform the teaching process: they include the presentation of proximal goals, an emphasis on active student involvement, the use of credible role models, and reinforcement of successful resistance behavior. The paper provides specific examples of how these principles are translated into curriculum activities.

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