Topic 2 Effective strategies

Interventions must be implemented with the age groups for which there is evidence of effectiveness (European Prevention Curriculum, 2019).

a) For children in middle childhood, substance use prevention strategies focus on the delivery of simple, straightforward instructions, for example, doctors give you medicine when you are sick to make you well;   medicine can be bad for you if you take it without a doctor telling you to; giving medicine to others is   dangerous, even if they ask for it.

Teachers can also implement strategies designed to reward prosocial behaviour which is intended as   beneficial for others and punish impulsive or inappropriate behaviour.

b) With guidance, early adolescents can develop positive values and attitudes that do not support substance use and on which they can base their decisions on whether or not to use substances.

Students can get to know the school’s policies concerning psychoactive substances and the consequences of   infractions.

They can understand how advertising attempts to influence them to use tobacco, alcohol, and other   substances, and they can learn about the adverse consequences of alcohol, tobacco and other substance use   on feelings, perceptions and behavioural health and their developing brains.

They should also continue to develop and practise a range of age-related personal and social skills, as we   have seen in the previous unit.

For later adolescence, students should be able to use their values, decision-making skills, and various life skills – particularly their assertiveness or ‘resistance’ skills, especially in situations where substances are used or where they may be invited to use substances. They should also learn about social sanctions related to illicit substance use.

Finally, they can be taught a variety of strategies to reduce the adverse effects of substance use (Marlatt et al., 2011).

As with every teaching material, there should be a clear understanding of the children’s ages and development phase.

The following table offers an overview of strategies that are effective and not in the area of prevention of addictions at school (European Prevention Curriculum, 2019 and UK Department of Health, 2001, in Guide for Prevention, Antidrug Council of Cyprus, 2020):

Effective strategies for PI at school

What works

What does not work

Delivery and structure

  • Interactive methods and participatory approach
  • Highly structured lessons and group work that promote that interaction of the members of the group
  • Follows a curriculum
  • Didactic methods such as lecturing or other passive methods.
  • Unstructured, spontaneous discussions 
  • Reliance on teachers’ judgement and intuition
  • Delivered by a trained facilitator/teacher
  • Facilitator that does not give the opportunity to students to participate actively.
  • Evidence for peer-led versus adult-led prevention programming is weak
  • Implemented via 10-15 weekly sessions
  • Practice in resistance skills in substance use - Enough practice time
  • Any stand-alone, single event activities
  • Multi-component programmes
  • Drama focused on students (role-playing)
  • Posters and pamphlets
  • Passive participation of the students.
  • Supportive comments to the students
  • Lack of active listening and feedback on behalf of the teacher/trainer


  • Decision-making, communication, and problem-solving skills
  • Increasing students’ knowledge by providing facts concerning specific substances, which may simply make students more informed consumers
  • Peer relationships and personal and social skills
  • Ex-drug users providing testimonials can end up glamorising or sensationalising drug use
  • Self-efficacy and assertiveness
  • Focusing on building self-esteem only
  • Support for study habits and academic achievement
  • Scare tactics and frightening stories that exaggerate and misrepresent the dangers of substance use and often contradict students’ own experiences and those of their peers.


  • For the long-term biological and psychological consequences of the use of addictive substances 
  • For the short-term consequences of the use of addictive substances 


  • Objective information on the prevalence of use in the school environment 
  • Objective information on the prevalence of use in the student population at the national level 
  • Development of critical thinking concerning the role of the media and social influences in relation to use.


  • Programs that lack knowledge information. 



  • Criticism of values
  • Decision-making based solely on moral values.


Interpersonal Skills 

  • Acquiring resistance skills to addictive substances. 
  • Acquiring security skills. 
  • Acquiring communication skills. 
  • Acquiring protection skills. 

Individual Skills applied in conjunction with Interpersonal Skills: 

  • Developing self-esteem. 
  • Developing skills to deal with difficulties. 
  • Developing stress reduction skills. 
  • Targeting.
  • Develop problem-solving skills.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Programs that lack the skills to resist dependency substances.

Individual Skills applied without being combined with Interpersonal Skills, for example self-esteem development, self-esteem development promoted in conjunction with an "ethical" decision-making, etc.



As underlined before, the material developed and used, as well as the methods should be aligned with the age of the students (Antidrug Council of Cyprus, 2020):

  • Prevention programmes should be designed to intervene at a young age as possible such as pre-school. This will address promptly the risk factors that may lead to substance use and enhance the protective factors. 
  • Prevention programmes for primary school children should aim to improve school performance and social and emotional education to intervene in risk factors for substance use. 
  • Prevention programmes for high school students should aim to improve pupils’ school performance and social skills.