In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid misuse and addiction continue to devastate communities around the US. And as many schools shift to remote learning, researchers at National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) are testing a new online program to prevent drug abuse in high schools students.
The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and is designed to develop and test a digital version of the Botvin LifeSkills Training program to evaluate its effectiveness in preventing drug abuse and prescription drug misuse. The study will involve up to 40 high schools across the United States. The new e-learning program, called e-LST, is based on an award-winning prevention approach that has been extensively tested and proven effective when implemented in classrooms by teachers and health professionals. The new e-LST program provides teachers, parents, and students with an engaging and flexible prevention approach that can be used at home, in class, or in hybrid learning environments.
“We know that nearly 10% of high school seniors have reported misusing prescription drugs, so it’s vital we provide our youth with prevention programming that helps them avoid substance abuse, including prescription drug abuse, and that gives them the resiliency skills they need to deal with the challenges of being a teenager,” said Dr. Kenneth W. Griffin, a professor at George Mason University who is collaborating with NHPA researchers on the study. “With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, it is clear that schools, teachers, and parents need flexible education options that include both in-class and remote learning programs. Equally important is that these programs are based on proven prevention approaches that can decrease drug abuse and other health risks that stem from common addressable causes.”
The e-LST program teaches students valuable life skills to help them avoid drug use and other health risks. The program goes beyond the traditional information that is offered in substance abuse prevention programs such as scare tactics, which are often ineffective. And its emphasis on coping skills and positive youth development is designed to promote mental health and provide students with the tools they need to develop resilience and deal with the anxiety and stress of life during a pandemic.
“NHPA is a leader in quality, effective evidence-based prevention education. While our core middle school program already has evidence demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing opioid and prescription drug misuse and abuse, the addition of a high school program will help to further address the drug epidemic facing our nation and the challenges associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, professor emeritus at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College and developer of the LST program. “More than 35 years of rigorous scientific research has proven the effectiveness of LST to reduce drug abuse and other health risks, with the potential to save taxpayers a good deal of money.”