School-based drug education programmes can significantly curb risky behaviour and drug abuse in teenagers, suggests a new study.
The researchers found that young adults who had been exposed to a popular drug abuse prevention program as adolescents were less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior five to seven years later.
"The lessons these young people learned about how to avoid drug and alcohol abuse appears to have had a positive impact on their sexual behavior as well," said Phyllis Ellickson, the lead author of the study and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
The study found that youth exposed to a drug abuse education program were significantly less likely as young adults to either engage in sex with multiple partners or to have unprotected sex because of drug and alcohol use than their peers who had not received the training.
During the study, the participants were given Project ALERT lessons.
While risky sexual behavior was common among the study participants, such behaviour was less prevalent among those exposed to Project ALERT.
Young adults were both less likely to have sex with multiple partners and to have unprotected sex because of drug use than their peers who had not been exposed to the program.
"Although the effects we found are somewhat modest, these findings show that the benefits of drug abuse prevention programs are not confined to drug use alone and can continue for many years after young people receive the instruction," said Ellickson.
The findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.