LifeSkills® Training (LST) is a classroom-based tobacco-, alcohol-, and drug abuse–prevention program for upper elementary and junior high school students. The goals of LST are to prevent tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug abuse by targeting key risk and protective factors associated with these behaviors.
LST is designed to: (1) increase knowledge of the adverse consequences of substance use; (2) promote anti-drug attitudes and norms; (3) teach personal self-management skills; (4) teach general social skills; and (5) teach skills for resisting social influences to smoke, drink, use illicit drugs, and engage in aggressive or violence-related behaviors.
LST is designed to target students who have not yet initiated substance use or are early stage users. The target age group for LST is early adolescence when peer groups and social pressures begin to influence children into substance use experimentation, particularly with tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.
LST has five key elements: a cognitive component, self-improvement component, a decision-making component, a coping with anxiety component, and a social skills training component. The LST prevention curriculum specifically:
- Provides students with the necessary skills to resist social pressures to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use drugs
- Helps students develop greater self-esteem, self-mastery, and self-confidence
- Increases knowledge of the immediate consequences of substance abuse
- Gives students tools to cope effectively with social anxiety
- Enhances cognitive and behavioral competency to prevent and reduce a variety of health risk behaviors
The LST curriculum is centered on the development of drug resistance, personal self-management and increased social skills in the students.
The Drug Resistance Skills components teach students to recognize and challenge common misconceptions about tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use. Using coaching and practice, students learn information and practical drug resistance skills for dealing with peer and media pressure to engage in alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and other risk behaviors such as violence and delinquency. The main goal is to decrease normative expectations regarding substance use and promote the development of drug refusal skills.
The Personal Self-Management Skills components teach students to examine their self-image and its effects on behavior; set goals and keep track of personal progress; identify everyday decisions and how they may be influenced by others; analyze problem situations and consider the consequences of each alternative solution before making decisions; reduce stress and anxiety; and look at personal challenges in a positive light.
The Social Skills components teach students the necessary skills to overcome shyness, communicate effectively and avoid misunderstandings, initiate and carry out conversations, handle social requests, utilize both verbal and nonverbal assertiveness skills to make or refuse requests, and recognize that they have choices other than aggression or passivity when faced with tough situations. LST uses developmentally appropriate and collaborative learning strategies taught through lecture, discussion, coaching, and practice to enhance students’ self-esteem, self-confidence, ability to make decisions, and ability to resist peer and media pressure.
The middle school program is designed to be taught in a sequence over 3 years, with the first year’s curriculum more intensive (with 15 class meetings) and booster sessions in the following 2 years’ acting as a refresher and review for participants. The elementary school program offers 24 classes to be taught during either third, fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. An LST program for parents is also available.
The LST program is guided by a comprehensive theoretical framework that addresses multiple risk and protective factors, provides developmentally appropriate information relevant to the target age group and the important life transitions they face, includes comprehensive personal and social skills training to build resilience and help students navigate developmental tasks, and uses interactive teaching methods (e.g., facilitated discussion, structured small group activities, role-playing scenarios) to stimulate participation and promote the acquisition of skills.
The specific program activities are based on cognitive–behavioral principles, including role-playing, modeling, immediate feedback, and reinforcement of positive behaviors. Students are encouraged to practice the lessons of the day through homework assignments. The LST approach aims to reduce substance use (and uptake, in particular) by increasing coping, refusal, social skills, and knowledge in the participants. The prevention of substance use is understood in terms of social influence theory and is treated through enhancing both competence and knowledge to encourage resistance.
11 to 18
The 1995 study by Botvin and colleagues found that LifeSkills® Training (LST) had numerous significant positive effects on the treatment groups, particularly for the high-fidelity sample that received a reasonably complete implementation of the intervention.
The two treatment groups (T1 and T2) in the overall sample reported significantly lower weekly and monthly cigarette smoking than the control group. In addition, the prevalence of heavy cigarette smoking (a pack a day) was significantly lower for the T2 treatment group, although the prevalence rate was not significantly lower for the T1 treatment group.
The effects of LST on the high-fidelity subsample were found to be greater than the effects that were found on the overall treatment sample. For example, at 6 years postintervention, 27 percent of the overall treatment sample reported monthly cigarette smoking, whereas 24 percent of the first high-fidelity treatment group (high-fidelity for T1) and 23 percent of the second high-fidelity treatment group (high-fidelity for T2) reported monthly cigarette smoking. In comparison, 33 percent of the control group reported monthly cigarette smoking.
For the overall sample, only the “drinking ‘til drunk” measure was significantly lower in the T1 and T2 treatment groups compared to the control group. Thirty-four percent of the T1 treatment group and 33 percent of the T2 treatment group reported problem drinking (getting drunk one or more times per month) compared to 40 percent of the control group.
For the high-fidelity treatment groups, all alcohol measures were significantly lower than the control group, except for monthly alcohol use for the high-fidelity for T1 group, which did not reach significance. The high-fidelity treatment groups reported significantly lower weekly use of alcohol, heavy use of alcohol (more than three drinks per drinking session), and problem drinking than the control group.
There was no significant difference between the two treatment groups and the control group on self-reported measures of marijuana use. However, some self-reported measures of polydrug use (the use of more than one drug at a time) were found to be significantly lower in the T1 and T2 treatment groups compared to the control group. For example, the two treatment groups reported significantly lower monthly cigarette smoking and alcohol use, as well as lower weekly use of cigarettes and marijuana. Both treatment groups also reported significantly lower weekly use of all three drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana) compared to the control group.
The high-fidelity treatment groups reported significantly lower marijuana use and polydrug use than the control group in nearly every measure. For instance, only 5 percent of both high-fidelity treatment groups reported weekly marijuana use, compared with 9 percent of the control group who reported weekly marijuana use. For polydrug use, 19 percent of both treatment groups reported monthly cigarette smoking and alcohol use, compared to 27 percent of the control group. Only 5 percent of the high-fidelity for T1 group reported monthly use of all three drugs, compared to 10 percent of the control group. The self-reported use of all three drugs of the high-fidelity for T2 group did not reach significance.
Trudeau and colleagues (2003) found that the LST intervention reduced the growth of substance initiation among the treatment group. LST significantly slowed the increase of substance initiation in the treatment group, compared with the control group over the follow-up period. LST also significantly slowed the decrease of refusal intentions in the treatment group, compared with the control group. Finally, marginally significant effects were found for the intervention’s impact on expectancies, which suggests that LST marginally slowed the decrease of the negative expectancies related to substance use in the treatment group when compared with the control group over the period.
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