6 Evidence-Based Substance Use Prevention & Wellness Programs

6 Evidence-Based Substance Use Prevention & Wellness Programs

Youth are at risk for multiple behaviors that harm their physical and mental health and development, as well as negatively influence their performance in school, sports, and life. 

Multiple risk behaviors, including substance use, mental health problem and chronic disease risk habits during adolescence can lead to significant adverse health and social outcomes in young adulthood: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7378566/

In addition, wellness-promoting lifestyle behaviors like physical activity and healthy eating are associated with positive youth development: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-70262-5_8

While there are a variety of evidence-based programs to prevent substance use and misuse, which interventions also address critical wellness promotion?

The Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development registry of evidence-based interventions was searched to answer this question.

The search first involved selecting all of the available substance use items under the “program outcomes” and “problem behavior” options.  These included “alcohol,” “illicit drugs,” “marijuana/cannabis,” and “tobacco.”

In addition, the terms “fitness,” “ nutrition,” “sleep,” and “relaxation” were added one by one to the keyword search option to identify substance use programs that address key wellness components.  The results of the search are shown below.

6 Evidence-Based Prevention and Wellness Programs

For the term “fitness” the following two programs were identified:

  • InShape Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)
  • SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)

For the term “nutrition” four programs were generated:

  • Positive Action
  • Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS)
  • InShape Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)
  • SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)

 For the term “sleep” four programs were again identified:

  • Positive Action
  • InShape Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW
  • RealTeen
  • SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)

For the final term “relaxation” two programs were found:

  • Coping Power
  • SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW)

Of the six programs identified, InShape PPW for young adults and SPORT PPW for adolescents are both one-session screening and brief interventions designed to prevent alcohol and drug use while increasing physical activity, healthy eating, sleep and stress control.

The other four programs are each different.  Positive Action, for example, is a six-session social emotional learning program for students in elementary and middle schools along with school climate and counselor materials.  ATLAS is a multi-session classroom and weightroom training program to prevent steroid use and improve nutrition habits among high school athletes.

RealTeen is an internet-based program for adolescent girls to improve their personal, social, and drug refusal skills. Coping Power is designed for parents to reduce aggressive attitudes and behaviors and prevent substance abuse among at-risk children in the late elementary to early middle school years.

Further descriptions of each program are below.

Program Descriptions

According to Blueprints, InShape Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) is a brief prevention program to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of college students by connecting positive health habits and images with the avoidance of risky alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use.

InShape PPW emphasizes the positive image benefits of setting goals to increase physical activity and exercise, healthy eating, sleep, and stress management, while avoiding alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug use to achieve and maintain a fit and active lifestyle. The main program components include a self-administered behavior image survey, a brief talk about fitness and health with a designated Fitness Specialist, and a set of fitness recommendations and goal plan to improve fitness behaviors and future image.

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/559999999/inshape-prevention-plus-wellness/

Blueprints states that SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) is a health promotion program that highlights the positive image benefits of an active lifestyle to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco and drug use by high school students in addition to improving their overall physical health.

SPORT PPW content highlights the positive image benefits of an active lifestyle by showing youth as active and fit and emphasizes substance abuse as counterproductive to achieving positive image and behavior goals. The program consists of an in-person health behavior screen, a one-on-one consultation with the teens, a take-home fitness prescription targeting adolescent health promoting behaviors and alcohol use along with its risk and protective factors, and a flyer reinforcing key content of the consultation mailed to the home. T

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/477999999/sport-prevention-plus-wellness/

According to Blueprints, Positive Action is a school-based social emotional learning program for students in elementary and middle schools to increase positive behavior, reduce negative behavior, and improve social and emotional learning and school climate.

The content of this program is included in six units that form the foundation for the whole program. The first unit teaches the philosophy of the program and the Thoughts-Actions-Feelings about Self Circle and provides an introduction to the nature and relevancy of positive and negative actions/behaviors. Units 2-6 teach the positive actions for the physical, intellectual, social and emotional areas. There are two school-wide climate development kits (elementary and secondary) and a Counselor's Kit.

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/182999999/positive-action/

Blueprints describes Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) as a drug prevention and health promotion program that deters substance use among high school adolescents in school sponsored athletics by educating youth on the harms of anabolic steroids, alcohol, and other drug use and promoting sports nutrition and exercise.

ATLAS is integrated into team practice sessions and consists of a seven-session classroom curriculum and seven weight room skill training sessions. Coaching staff or surrogates administer the classroom curriculum which includes subjects such as risk factors of steroid use, strength training and sports nutrition, as well as skills to refuse steroids and other substances. In addition, nutritional recommendations and false claims of over the counter supplements are discussed. 

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/64999999/athletes-training-and-learning-to-avoid-steroids-atlas/

Blueprints identifies RealTeen as an internet-based, gender-specific drug abuse prevention program intended to reduce substance use among early adolescent girls through improving personal, social, and drug refusal skills.

This program is designed to improve adolescent girls' general personal and social skills and skills specific to drug use. The program operates through a secured website, which offers a homepage with a variety of content, including feeds from the latest entertainment sites, online polls, horoscopes, beauty tips, and a quote of the day. Participants in the program also use the RealTeen website to complete 9 intervention sessions. 

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/761999999/realteen/

Coping Power is described by Blueprints as a preventative group intervention designed to reduce aggressive attitudes and behaviors and prevent substance abuse among at-risk children in the late elementary to early middle school years.

Coping Power for parents and their at-risk children consists of two components (Parent Focus and Child Focus) designed to impact four variables that have been identified as predicting substance abuse (lack of social competence, poor self-regulation and self-control, poor bonding with school, and poor caregiver involvement with child). The program's Child component emphasizes problem-solving and conflict management techniques, coping mechanisms, positive social supports, and social skill development. The Parent component teaches parents skills to manage stress, identify disruptive child behaviors, effectively discipline and reward their children, establish effective communication structures, and manage child behavior outside the home.  

Learn more: https://www.blueprintsprograms.org/programs/194999999/coping-power/


Evidence-based programs that address multiple health risk behaviors among youth and young adults are critical to preventing substance use, mental health problems and future chronic disease as well as promoting physical and mental wellbeing. 

Six programs were identified in the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development registry as effective interventions that can holistically increase substance use prevention outcomes to include improvements in one or more of the following areas: physical activity, nutrition, sleep, or relaxation (stress control) among young people.

Two of these programs, SPORT and InShape Prevention Plus Wellness, also come in adaptations for youth and parents addressing the prevention of cannabis, e-cigarettes, and opioid misuse.

Learn more: https://preventionpluswellness.com

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