Australian school-based prevention programs for alcohol and other drugs: a systematic review

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Sep;31(6):731-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00420.x. Epub 2012 Feb 17.


Issues: To reduce the occurrence and costs related to substance use and associated harms it is important to intervene early. Although a number of international school-based prevention programs exist, the majority show minimal effects in reducing drug use and related harms. Given the emphasis on early intervention and prevention in Australia, it is timely to review the programs currently trialled in Australian schools. This paper reports the type and efficacy of Australian school-based prevention programs for alcohol and other drugs.

Approach: Cochrane, PsychInfo and PubMed databases were searched. Additional materials were obtained from authors, websites and reference lists. Studies were selected if they described programs developed and trialled in Australia that address prevention of alcohol and other drug use in schools.

Key findings: Eight trials of seven intervention programs were identified. The programs targeted alcohol, cannabis and tobacco and most were based on social learning principles. All were universal. Five of the seven intervention programs achieved reductions in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use at follow up.

Conclusion: Existing school-based prevention programs have shown to be efficacious in the Australian context. However, there are only a few programs available, and these require further evaluative research. This is critical, given that substance use is such a significant public health problem. The findings challenge the commonly held view that school-based prevention programs are not effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Program Evaluation / trends
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • School Health Services* / trends
  • Schools / trends
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*