The Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study: A randomized field trial of a universal substance abuse prevention program

Zili Sloboda*, Richard C. Stephens, Peggy C. Stephens, Scott F. Grey, Brent Teasdale, Richard D. Hawthorne, Joseph Williams, Jesse F. Marquette

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of the study was to determine whether a universal school-based substance abuse prevention program, Take Charge of Your Life (TCYL), prevents or reduces the use of tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. Methods: Eighty-three school clusters (representing school districts) from six metropolitan areas were randomized to treatment (41) or control (42) conditions. Using active consenting procedures, 19,529 seventh graders were enrolled in the 5-year study. Self-administered surveys were completed by the students annually. Trained Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) police officers presented TCYL in seventh and ninth grades in treatment schools. Analyses were conducted with data from 17,320 students who completed a baseline survey. Intervention outcomes were measured using self-reported past-month and past-year use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana when students were in the 11th grade. Results: Main effect analyses show a negative program effect for use of alcohol and cigarettes and no effect for marijuana use. Subgroup analyses indicated that the negative effect occurred among nonusers at baseline, and mostly among white students of both genders. A positive program effect was found for students who used marijuana at baseline. Two complementary papers explore the relationship of the targeted program mediators to the use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana and specifically for students who were substance-free or who used substances at baseline. Conclusions: The negative impact of the program on baseline nonusers of alcohol and tobacco indicate that TCYL should not be delivered as a universal prevention intervention. The finding of a beneficial effect for baseline marijuana users further supports this conclusion. The programmatic and methodological challenges faced by the Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Study (ASAPS) and lessons learned offer insights for prevention researchers who will be designing similar randomized field trials in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • At-risk adolescents
  • Prevention
  • Substance use
  • Universal intervention


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