This article was submitted by KARA’s Century College volunteer Dave Mast.

Substance Abuse Prevention for Teens

The impact of substance abuse on children and teenagers, as discussed in KARA’s recent article 254 Children, 220,000 Crimes, 12 Months, is very detrimental to their futures and to society in general.

Identifying programs that have shown success in the prevention and reduction of teenage substance abuse is crucial to keeping America’s youth happy, healthy, and productive.

Some programs exist that are taught at schools to students and involve education about the use and abuse of drugs, consequences of drug abuse, and ways to avoid getting involved with drugs. Perhaps the best known example of this type of program is Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE).

Other programs include more in-depth approaches to drug prevention, through the use of one-on-one mentoring, community service, and competency programs.

A Philadelphia based program called Across Ages was founded in 1991, and has been replicated in many other states in the past twenty years.

Four basic program components prevent, reduce or delay substance abuse by children and teenagers.

* a mentoring program; pairing an adult over 55 years of age with each youth between ages 9 and 13. The mentor spends at least two hours per week with the child doing recreational activities, providing tutoring, counseling, and assistance with community service (Across Ages, 2010).

* each youth spends one to two hours every week performing community service.

* social competence training; 26 weekly lessons that teach cognitive and behavioral approaches to dealing with problems and decisions. In particular, these skills are applied to the prevention of substance abuse and high-risk sexual behavior.

* involvement in family activities; Across Ages hosts monthly events that engage the youth, their families, and their mentors to strengthen the relationships between the children and the adults in their lives (Across Ages, 2010).

After implementing the program in 2003, the Montgomery County Intergenerational Resource Center in Maryland observed that participation in Across Ages led to increased knowledge about substance abuse and a decrease in the use of tobacco and alcohol by the youth involved (Siegel & Welsh, 2006, p. 207).


Across Ages. (2010). An intergenerational approach to prevention. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from
Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2006). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Weissberg. (n.d.). Social Competence Promotion Program for Young Adolescents (formerly “Weissberg’s…”). Retrieved September 20, 2010, from

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1 Comment

  1. A worthwhile investment for our future generations to come….meaningful learning through active participation, mentorship and community services resulting empowerment because of knowledge. I like this concept. It is creative and innovative…most of all its aim is to support our youth to thrive into adulthood with accountability and responsibility for their choices.

    What better way to teach our youth to say “No” except through caring. Some may think caring is a passive, but it is not; caring requires action such as listening, teaching, and role modeling. Caring takes time and effort. Across the Ages, Youth Substance Abuse & Program is a proactive approach with a well-developed plan for our youth. I hope more communities around the country will take part in this program by taking a closer look for implementation. Today’s youth will share what they learn with next generation because, it too will face the same challenges.

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