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LifeSkills® Training

Ages 8-14

Rating: Level 1


LifeSkills® Training (LST) is a classroom-based tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse prevention program for upper elementary and junior high school students. LST targets individuals who have not yet initiated substance use. The program is designed to prevent the early stages of substance use by influencing risk factors associated with substance abuse, particularly occasional or experimental use. The LST approach is based on the latest scientific evidence, teaching general personal and social skills in combination with drug resistance skills and normative education. Its prevention curriculum specifically

  • Provides students with the necessary skills to resist social pressures to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use drugs
  • Helps them develop greater self-esteem, self-mastery, and self-confidence
  • Increases knowledge of the immediate consequences of substance abuse
  • Gives students tools to cope effectively with social anxiety
  • Enhances cognitive and behavioral competency to prevent and reduce a variety of health risk behaviors

The middle school program is designed to be taught in a sequence over 3 years, with the 1st year’s curriculum more intensive with 15 class meetings, and the following 2 years’ curriculum acting as a refresher and review. The elementary school program offers 24 classes to be taught during either third, fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. An LST program for parents is also available. The specific program activities are based on cognitive-behavioral principles, including role-playing, modeling, immediate feedback, and reinforcement of positive behaviors. Students are encouraged to practice the lessons of the day through homework assignments.

The program has been tested in urban and suburban schools with white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American students in grades 7 through 12 (ages 11 to 18).


LST has been evaluated in a series of studies since 1980. The studies were designed to systematically facilitate the development, as well as to measure the effectiveness, of this prevention program. The early research examined LST’s usefulness as a cigarette-smoking prevention program. A pretest, posttest, 3-month-follow-up quasi-experimental design was used to compare short-term smoking rates among 281 junior high school students. Health professionals conducted the program while the control school received treatment as usual. In a subsequent study using a randomized sample to test the effectiveness of peer leaders as LifeSkills® providers, data collection was supported by a saliva test, which enhanced the validity of self-reports and served as a more objective measurement of smoking status.

To test the effect of LST on frequency of alcohol use, episodes of drunkenness, and heavy drinking, two comparable New York City, N.Y., schools were randomly assigned to experimental and control conditions. Program participants received information regarding consequences of alcohol use and were taught refusal skills. A larger replication study was expanded to take into account (along with alcohol prevention) marijuana and tobacco prevention and included more than 1,300 seventh grade students from 10 suburban New York schools. Schools were randomly assigned to five conditions: 1) a teacher-led LST curriculum, 2) a peer-led LST curriculum, 3) a teacher-led curriculum with booster sessions, 4) a peer-led curriculum with booster sessions, and 5) no treatment control. Pretest, posttest, and 1-year follow-up data was collected.

In a study to determine the long-term effectiveness of LST on preventing tobacco, alcohol. and other drug use in junior high school students, 56 middle schools numbering nearly 6,000 students were randomly assigned to prevention or a control condition. Students received the program in the seventh grade with booster sessions in the eighth and ninth grades. Follow-up data was collected at the end of their 12th grade year. Classroom teachers who were specially trained taught the program.


Large-scale, long-term outcome evaluations of LST showed significantly lower smoking, alcohol, and marijuana use 6 years after initial baseline assessment. Prevalence of use of these substances was 44 percent lower for those receiving LST than for the control students. Regular (weekly) use of multiple drugs was 66 percent lower for those receiving the program. The LST program has been extensively evaluated in more than a dozen federally funded studies and has been tested and proven effective among white, African-American, and Hispanic adolescents from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The program was found effective when implemented under different scheduling formats, with different levels of project staff involvement, and whether the program providers are adults or peer leaders. Stronger prevention effects were found for students in the high-implementation fidelity group—that is, students who received 60 percent or more of the 30 lessons over the 3-year span.

Risk Factors


  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • High expectations


  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • SAMHSA: Model Programs
  • NIJ: What Works
  • HHS: Surgeon General
  • Department of Education
  • NIDA: Preventing Drug Abuse
  • Hamilton Fish Institute
  • Drug Strategies


Botvin, Gilbert J., Eli Baker, Linda Dusenbury, Elizabeth M. Botvin, and Tracy Diaz. 1995. “Long-Term Follow-Up Results of a Randomized Drug Abuse Prevention Trial in a White Middle-Class Population.” Journal of the American Medical Association 273(14):1106–12.

Botvin, Gilbert J., Eli Baker, Anne D. Filazzola, and Elizabeth M. Botvin. 1990. “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Substance Abuse Prevention: 1-Year Follow-Up.” Addictive Behaviors 15(1):47–63.

Botvin, Gilbert J., and Lori W. Kantor. 2000. “Preventing Alcohol and Tobacco Use Through LifeSkills® Training: Theory, Methods, Empirical Findings.” Alcohol Research and Health 24:250–57.

Botvin, Gilbert J., Steven P. Schinke, Jennifer A. Epstein, Tracy Diaz, and others. 1995. “Effectiveness of Culturally Focused and Generic Skills Training Approaches to Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Among Minority Adolescents: 2-Year Follow-Up Results.” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 9(3):183–94.

Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities. 1994. “Study Focuses on Successful Prevention Programs.” Midwest Forum 4(1).


Gilbert Botvin
Institute for Prevention Research, Cornell University Medical College
1300 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Elizabeth Gronewold
National Health Promotion Associates, Inc.
711 Westchester Avenue
White Plains, NY 10604
Phone: (800) 293-4969
Fax: (914) 683-6998
Web site: