Universal drug education programmes in schools have been shown to have an impact on the most common substances used by young people: alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.
The approaches which appear to be most effective are those based on social influences and life skills, for example Life Skills Training and Unplugged.
Interventions which are not drug-specific but focus on children and young people’s attachment to school can also be effective in reducing substance misuse. The Good Behaviour Game is one example of these.
There has been limited work on cost-effectiveness in a UK context, but what there is suggests that programmes do not need to have dramatic impacts to be cost-effective.
The research evidence has some limitations and in particular is largely from a US context so there may be a need for further testing and adaptation in bringing programmes to the UK.
Another lesson from research is that partial implementation of programmes reduces their impact. This has implications for teacher training and the need for schools to set aside sufficient time, but also for designers to ensure programmes are not overambitious in terms of content.
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