Background: Studies of effectiveness of school-based prevention of substance misuse have generally overlooked gender differences. The purpose of this work was to analyse gender differences in the effectiveness of a new European school-based curriculum for prevention of substance misuse among adolescents.
Methods: The European Drug Abuse Prevention (EU-Dap) trial took place in seven European countries during the school year 2004–05. Schools were randomly assigned to either a control group or a 12-session standardised curriculum (“Unplugged”) based on a comprehensive social influence model. The analytical sample consisted of 6359 students (3324 boys and 3035 girls). The use of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs, adolescents’ knowledge and opinions about substances, as well as social and personal skills were investigated through a self-completed anonymous questionnaire administered at enrolment and 3 months after the end of the programme. Adjusted Prevalence Odds Ratios were calculated as the measure of association between the intervention and behavioural outcomes using multilevel regression modelling.
Results: At enrolment, boys were more likely than girls to have used cannabis and illicit drugs, whereas girls had a higher prevalence of cigarette smoking. At the follow-up survey, a significant association between the programme and a lower prevalence of all behavioural outcomes was found among boys, but not among girls. Age and self-esteem emerged as possible modifiers of these gender differences, but effects were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: Comprehensive social influence school curricula against substance misuse in adolescence may perform differently among girls and boys, owing to developmental and personality factors.
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Funding EU-Dap is a project funded by the European Commission (European Public Health programme 2002 grant no. SPC 2002376). Additional national funding was provided by: Compagnia di San Paolo (grant no. 2002-0703) and Lega Italiana per la Lotta contro i Tumori (grant no. 2003 43/4) for the Novara Centre, Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (grant no. 2002-0979) and Stockholm County Council (Public Health grant no. LS 0401-0117) for the Swedish centre.
Competing interests None.
The EU-Dap Study Group includes (besides the authors): B Zunino, V Siliquini, GL Cuomo, L Vitale (Piedmont Centre for Drug Addiction Epidemiology, Turin, Italy); K Bohrn (Institut für Sozial und Gesundheitspsychologie, Vienna, Austria), P van der Kreeft, E Coppens, Y Weyts (De Sleutel, Merelbeke, Belgium); JC Melero, T Perez, L Varona (EDEX, Bilbao, Spain); G Wiborg (IFT-Nord, Kiel, Germany); V Yotsidi, C Richardson (University Mental Health Research Institute, Athens, Greece); M Vasara, M Kyriakidou (Pyxida, Thessaloniki, Greece); A-M Lindahl (Stockholm Centre of Public Health and Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden); M Panella (Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Avogadro University, Novara, Italy); L Fabiani, M Scatigna (Department of Internal Medicine and Public Health, University of L’Aquila).
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