What programs are most effective for preventing teen marijuana use? That question is being studied by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) which recently released an updated review of scientific evidence about prevention programs. They reviewed 23 youth marijuana prevention and treatment programs and categorized them as "evidence-based", "research-based", or "promising." (Definitions appear at the end of this post.)
For the Prevention WINS coalition, the report brings good news: Life Skills Training, the program implemented at Eckstein Middle School since 2007, is identified as one of two top-tier evidence-based prevention programs.
The two parenting programs implemented through Eckstein, Guiding Good Choices and the Strengthening Families Program, are considered research-based for preventing teen marijuana use.
Communities That Care is the other evidence-based prevention program identified by WSIPP. Similar to the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) that Prevention WINS uses, Communities That Care guides communities to identify local risk factors and implement tested and effective programs to address them.
Using the SPF, Prevention WINS this year, for the first time, identified "community laws and norms favorable to drug use" as NE Seattle's primary teen marijuana use risk factor. The "laws and norms" risk factor is determined by how easy it is for teenagers to access a drug; if they think they will be caught by police if they use a drug; and what they think others in the community think of kids using the drug.
To address community laws and norms favorable to marijuana use, the Prevention WINS coalition will continue to advocate for policies that reduce youth access to marijuana and for the adoption and enforcement of laws regarding minors and marijuana. These types of policies will support the messages that children and families hear when participating in school-based and parenting programs.
Summary of definitions: For complete definitions, see page 4 of the report)
Evidence-based: A program that has been tested multiple times and the weight of the evidence from a systematic review demonstrates sustained improvement in at least one outcome. It also means a program that can be implemented with a set of procedures to allow successful replication and is determined to be cost-effective.
Research-based: A program that has been tested once and demonstrates sustained desirable outcomes but does not meet the full requirements of evidence-based.
Promising: A practice that shows potential for meeting the evidence-based or research-based criteria based on statistical analysis or a well-established theory of change.