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Teens' 'Competence Skills' Key to Avoiding Drug Abuse: Study

Strong self-image, ability to say 'no' deciding factors in resisting peer pressure

FRIDAY, April 13, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Competence skills -- which include good self-management and positive psychological characteristics -- can help prevent teen substance abuse over the long term, even when friends drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs.

That's the conclusion of a new study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Previous research has shown that substance abuse by friends is one of the major influences that lead teens into substance abuse themselves.

This three-year study included almost 1,500 predominately Hispanic youngsters at 22 inner-city middle and junior high schools in New York City. It found that students with high refusal assertiveness skills (they say "no" when someone asks them to drink, smoke, or use drugs) were less likely to use multiple substances (cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana), even if the students' friends or siblings smoked, drank and used drugs.

The study also found that students with high refusal assertiveness skills and good decision-making skills were less likely to say they intended to smoke in the future.

The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.

"The take-home message from these findings is that competence skills matter in our understanding of substance use," study lead author Dr. Jennifer A. Epstein, assistant professor of public health, said in a prepared statement.

"They can combat powerful social influences from friends and siblings to use multiple substances, including cigarettes. Moreover, this research provides important support for drug-abuse prevention programs that include the teaching of competence skills, including refusal skills and decision-making skills," she said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about youngsters and substance abuse.

SOURCE: Weill Cornell Medical College, news release, April 2007
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