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ESPAD Study: Implications for Prevention

NCJ Number
Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: July 1999 Pages: 243-256
Mark Morgan; Bjorn Hibell; Barbro Andersson; Thoroddur Bjarnason; Anna Kokkevi; Anu Narusk
Date Published
July 1999
14 pages
The European Schools Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) focused on juvenile drug use, beliefs, attitudes, and risk factors among more than 50,000 16-year-olds in 26 European countries and provided data suggesting crucial issues in prevention and the role of contextual and cultural factors in the use of alcohol and other drugs.
The youths were born in 1979 and completed the same questionnaire while at school. The research aimed for a sample of 2,400 youths in each country; only 5 countries had samples smaller than the target. Most of the data collection took place during March-April 1995. Results indicated that an emphasis on risks and dangers may be a poor prevention strategy, because many young people do not believe the widely accepted dangers of certain forms of drug use (e.g., cigarette smoking). Results also indicated that youth in most countries except for Nordic countries believed that the use of alcohol and other drugs was more common than it actually was. In addition, the correlation between perceived access to drugs and actual use of drugs depended on the drug involved; the correlations were strongest for marijuana but low for alcohol. Moreover, the measure used for problem behavior (truancy from school) related to drug use in a way that was opposite to that predicted in theory on problem behavior. Furthermore, potential restraining factors such as involvement in athletics and leisure did not act in a way that prevented people from experimenting with drugs. Findings suggested that the importance of cultural and contextual factors and the importance of the specific drug have both been underestimated and that research has not determined a core set of universal influences that act to determine drug use. Tables, note, and 20 references (Author abstract modified)