Home > The ESPAD study: implications for prevention.

Morgan, Mark and Hibell, Bjorn and Andersson, Barbro and Bjarnason, Thoroddur and Kokkevi, Anna and Narusk, Anu (1999) The ESPAD study: implications for prevention. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 6, (2), pp. 243-256.

PDF (The ESPAD Study: implications for prevention) - Accepted Version

The European Schools Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) was concerned with the substance use, beliefs, attitudes and risk factors among over 50,000 16-year-olds in 26 European countries. Based on this data, the present paper focuses on critical issues in prevention and uses a country-level analysis with focus on the extent that contextual and cultural factors interact with factors influencing the use of alcohol and other drugs.

The results indicate that: (i) an emphasis on risks and dangers may be a poor prevention strategy since many young people do not believe the widely accepted dangers of certain forms of substance use (e.g. cigarette smoking); (ii) misperception of norms in relation to substance use, that is, the belief that use of alcohol and other drugs is more common than it actually is, emerged in most countries with the exception of Nordic countries; (iii) the correlation between perceived access to substances and actual use depended on the substance involved; correlations were strongest for cannabis but low for alcohol; (iv) the measure of problem behaviour was used in the ESPAD study (truancy from school), is correlated with substance use in a way that is opposite to that predicted in problem behaviour theory; and (v) there were no indications that the potential restraining factors that were examined in this study (involvement in athletics and leisure) acted in a way that prevented people from experimenting with drugs. The results of this analysis suggests that far from our having identified a core set of universal influences that act to determine substance use, the importance of cultural and contextual factors have been underestimated as has the importance of the specific substance involved.

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