School-level substance use and addiction treatment and prevention in middle school

Antismoking campaigns and prevention programs in middle schools may be beneficial in teaching adolescents about the harms of smoking and drinking. Students who have been smoking and drinking in middle school may continue to smoke and drink throughout high school and even be at a higher risk for alcohol abuse in their lifetime. Thus, using evidence based approaches to inform adolescents about addiction treatment may be helpful in reducing the number of students who try drinking and smoking.

Parenting style is another key indicator of drinking and smoking by adolescents where subprime parenting may lead to an increased risk of tobacco use by middle school students. Individualized drug and alcohol treatment programs can help to reduce the risk of substance abuse in adolescents and possibly help them address any underlying issues.

Previous studies have shown that school-level use of tobacco and alcohol are related to individual student use in high school. However, few studies have examined the influence of school-level use in early adolescence, and little is known about modifying factors of individual vulnerability to school-level influences. A team of researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined school-level use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana in early adolescence as well as the role of peer deviance and parenting style as modifiers of the school-level effects (Mrug et. al., 2010).

In this cross-section of students, the researchers recruited 542 students from 49 middle schools in the area of Birmingham, Alabama. Students self-reported their use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana as well as peer deviance in the past 12 months. Parents of the participants self-reported on parenting style, providing information about nurturance and discipline. School-wide levels of use for the various substances were obtained from school-wide surveys completed by all students in grades 6 through 8 at all of the middle schools. The researchers then employed multilevel logistic regression to examine individual use as a function of school-level use for each substance. The effects of peer deviance and parenting style were also examined.

Results showed that school-level use of cigarettes were associated with individual student smoking. Among the middle school students in this study, school-level use of alcohol and marijuana were not related to individual use; this contrasts findings among high school students in other students. However, in the current study the relationships of school-level smoking and alcohol use were stronger for students with parents who reported poorer parenting practices.

The researchers concluded that antismoking and addiction treatment and prevention programs at the middle school likely should target middle schools with high rates of tobacco use. Additionally, this study suggests that students with suboptimal parenting may derive more benefit from increased support in drug treatment and prevention problems.

Several studies have suggested that a parenting style that is both supportive and authoritative may deter adolescents from substance abuse in middle school. A 2003 survey found that 24 percent of 8th grades reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. School-level and community intervention programs may reduce risk for adolescent substance abuse at specific schools.

Mrug S, Gaines J, Su W, Windle M. School-level substance use: effects on early adolescents’ alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2010; 71(4): 488-495.
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