Background: The effectiveness of social skills training/social network restructuring in the primary and secondary prevention of drug use was examined in a multiethnic cohort of 296 female adolescents ages 14 to 19 years who were pregnant or parenting and/or at risk for drug use.
Methods: Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (a) PALS Skills Training or (b) a control intervention involving no skills training. PALS Skills Training is a combination of cognitive and behavioral techniques to improve social skills and to restructure the teens' social network. All students also participated in a 16-week normative education "Facts of Life" course.
Results: The prevalence of alcohol and any drug use increased significantly over the three assessment periods in the PALS Skills group but not in the No Skills group. Teens in the PALS Skills group who reported no drug use at baseline were 2.9 times as likely to be using marijuana than teens in the No Skills group at 3 months postintervention. PALS Skills Training was no more effective in the secondary prevention of drug use than the control intervention.
Conclusions: Social skills training was found to be ineffective as a means of primary prevention among non-drug-using high-risk adolescents and may even be counterproductive as a means of primary prevention of marijuana use in this population. When combined with normative information on drug use prevalence, acceptability, and hazards, social skills training is no more effective as a means of secondary prevention than normative education alone.