Project ALERT: A Middle School Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum
Project ALERT seeks to motivate middle school students not to use alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana and to impart skills needed to translate that motivation into effective resistance behavior. The curriculum includes lesson plans, handouts, interactive videos, posters, unlimited access to online training and resources, tollfree phone support, an ongoing ALERT Educator newsletter, and unlimited ability to download additional copies of lesson plans.
The first evaluation of Project ALERT, conducted in the late 1980s, showed positive results in terms of drug use and associated cognitive risk factors (Ellickson and Bell, 1990). A second large-scale randomized controlled trial found similar results (Ellickson, McCaffrery, et al., 2003; Ghosh-Dastidar, Longshore, et al., 2004). On the other hand, a randomized, two-cohort longitudinal evaluation of the program found no positive effects, although this may have been due to implementation differences (St. Pierre, Osgood, et al., 2005). The program is among the substance abuse prevention programs for which Aos, Lieb, and colleagues report that benefits exceed costs (2004).
Project ALERT has evolved over time into a combined middle school and high school curriculum called ALERT Plus, which extends the basic curriculum to ninth grade with five booster lessons to help sustain the program’s positive effects. Longshore, Ellickson, and colleagues (2007) found weak results for Project ALERT in a randomized controlled field trial of the intervention with ninth grade at-risk adolescents.
in multiple trials to be ineffective in its original form; a modified version is currently being tested.
The evidence on alcohol and drug abuse prevention in colleges is limited and inconclusive because, although many colleges have such programs, very few studies have evaluated them (Larimer, Kilmer, and Lee, 2005). More robust evaluation has been done of interventions focused on reducing drinking among college students. Carey, Scott-Sheldon, et al. (2007) report on a meta-analysis of 62 interventions. They found that, although on average the interventions reduced alcohol consumption both immediately and at follow-up, the majority of studies failed to produce a significant effect. Variables associated with positive outcomes include motivational interviewing (MI, a nonconfrontational approach to asking students to describe their