Hybrid Learning and Prevention Program Reduces Teen Substance Use 

In This Story

People Mentioned in This Story

Hybrid school-based programs for preventing substance abuse offer considerable public health potential. 

Kenneth Griffin
Professor of Global and Community Health Kenneth Griffin

Approximately 90% of adults who meet the criteria for drug addiction started using before they were 18. School-based drug abuse prevention programs can be highly effective in reducing the onset and escalation of substance use, but new strategies are needed to overcome barriers to implementing effective prevention programs, such as reduced classroom time.  

A new study from Professor of Global and Community Health Kenneth Griffin shows that a hybrid school-based substance abuse prevention program was effective at reducing multiple forms of substance use among middle school students. Students who received the hybrid prevention program (combining online e-learning modules and in-class sessions) showed significantly less cigarette smoking, e-cigarette and vaping use, excess alcohol use, marijuana use, and prescription drug misuse compared to students who received standard health education. 

Major barriers to successful in-class only programs include the amount of class time programs require and the challenge of implementing programs with high levels of fidelity to their original design. The hybrid program effectively addressed both of these barriers. 

“Hybrid digital approaches to prevent substance use in adolescents, such as those tested in this study, offer the potential for delivering program content in a time-efficient and standardized manner,” said Griffin. “Additionally, the hybrid approach reserves class time for in-person interactive activities such as small-group discussion and skills practice, which have been shown to be core components of effective prevention programming.” 

Students in the hybrid intervention group also reported increased overall health knowledge, skills knowledge, and improvements in life skills including decision-making, coping with anxiety and anger, effective communication, social skills, assertiveness, and conflict resolution. 

Twenty-three middle schools across the United States participated in the study. The content for the e-learning program was adapted from the evidence-based Life Skills Training (LST) classroom program. The self-paced e-learning portion efficiently presents information and promotes knowledge acquisition, while in-person class time provided opportunities for the application and practice of the knowledge and skills taught through the online e-learning program.  

“Effectiveness of a hybrid digital substance abuse prevention approach combining e-learning and in-person class sessions” was published in Frontiers in Digital Health in August 2022. 

This study was funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, and the program was developed by National Health Promotion Associates, where Griffin is currently a consultant. The consulting arrangement has been disclosed and approved.