What is it about?

This paper presents an overview of recent systematic reviews, summarising the evidence on the effectiveness of prevention strategies which target adolescents misusing alcohol and/or drugs.Ten reviews evaluated school-based prevention. The effects of these prevention programmes are promising, while effects of community-based, family-based and multifaceted programmes were less convincing. Based on the current evidence, there is a small but consistent positive effect of school-based prevention programmes, but it is less clear what the “active ingredient” is. For example, which group should one target, in which setting and in which circumstances? A set of standardised process and outcome measures would allow us to better compare and statistically pool the results of original studies and reviews. This overview of reviews, like similar other overviews, should encourage researchers to increase uniformity and consistency between studies. This would improve the comparability of evidence, which is needed to formulate valid recommendations for practice.

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Why is it important?

It illustrates the problem of using a variety of different measures and outcomes, which complicate the comparison of relevant information. Also, it encourages us to think about components of programs rather than programs themselves in our search for what generates success in prevention.


Overviews of reviews are a tricky endeavour. They can pick up trends and bring together a variety of evidence, but they are usually poor in detecting what really matters.

Karin Hannes
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Prevention of alcohol and drug misuse in adolescents: An overview of systematic reviews, Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, January 2015, De Gruyter, DOI: 10.1515/nsad-2015-0019.
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