LifeSkills Training

Updated: Mar 02, 2018
Evidence Rating:
Top Tier


  • Program:

    Middle-school substance abuse prevention program.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    Two well-conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

  • Key Findings:

    Reductions of approximately 10-30% in rates of smoking, drunkenness, and marijuana use at 12th grade follow-up (i.e., 5-6 years after random assignment).

  • Other:

    Strong evidence of effectiveness applies to rural or suburban public schools with a mostly white population. Evidence for urban, minority schools is promising but limited by lack of long-term follow-up. Program is low-cost.

LifeSkills Training is a middle school substance abuse prevention program that: (i) teaches students social and self-management skills, including skills in resisting peer and media pressure to smoke, drink, or use drugs; and (ii) informs students of the immediate consequences of substance abuse.

The program is delivered by regular classroom teachers who have received brief training from the LifeSkills Training organization.  The teachers provide the program to students in 15 classroom sessions, each approximately 40-45 minutes in length, during students’ first year of middle school (either 6th or 7th grade). Over the next two years, the teachers provide students with a total of 5-15 review sessions to reinforce what they have learned.

In the classroom sessions, the teachers first explain a variety of life skills (e.g. giving assertive responses in a social interaction) and demonstrate how to use it. Students then practice using these skills in role plays during class, and in behavioral homework assignments outside of school.

Curriculum materials cost approximately $8 per student per year, and the teacher training workshops cost approximately $250 per teacher (2017 dollars).

Click here to go to the program’s website.

To see our full evidence summary:
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Study 1 – Rural Iowa:

Spoth, Richard, G. Kevin Randall, Linda Trudeau, Chungyeol Shin, and Cleve Redmond.  “Substance use outcomes 5 1/2 years past baseline for partnership-based, family-school preventive interventions.”  Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2008, 57-68.

Spoth, Richard, Linda Trudeau, and Chungyeol Shin.  “Long-term effects of universal preventive interventions on prescription drug misuse.”  Addiction, 2008, vol. 103, no. 7, pp. 1160-1168.

Spoth, Richard L., Scott Clair, Chungyeol Shin, and Cleve Redmond.  “Long-term Effects of Universal Preventative Interventions on Methamphetamine Use Among Adolescents.”  Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 2006, vol. 160, pp.876-882.

Trudeau, Linda, Richard Spoth, Catherine Lillehoj, Cleve Redmond, and K.A.S. Wickrama, “Effects of a Preventive Intervention on Adolescent Substance Use Initiation, Expectancies, and Refusal Intentions.”  Prevention Science, vol. 4, no. 2, June 2003, pp. 109-122.

Spoth, Richard, Cleve Redmond, Linda Trudeau, and Chungyeol Shin, “Longitudinal Substance Initiation Outcomes for a Universal Preventive Intervention Combining Family and School Programs,” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, vol. 16, no. 2, 2002, pp. 129-134.


Study 2 – New York State:

Griffin, Kenneth W., Gilbert J. Botvin, and Tracy R. Nichols.  “Effects of a school-based drug abuse prevention program for adolescents on HIV risk behaviors in young adulthood.”  Prevention Science, 2006, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 103-112.

Griffin, Kenneth W., Gilbert J. Botvin, and Tracy R. Nichols.  “Long-term follow-up effects of a school-based drug abuse prevention program on adolescent risky driving.”  Prevention Science, 2004, vol. 5, pp. 207-212.

Botvin Gilbert J., Kenneth W. Griffin, Tracy Diaz, Lawrence M. Scheier, Christopher Williams, and Jennifer A. Epstein.  “Preventing illicit drug use in adolescents:  Long-term follow-up data from a randomized control trial of a school population.”  Addictive Behaviors, 2000, vol. 25, pp. 769-774.

Botvin, Gilbert J., Sharon Mihalic, and Jennifer Grotpeter (1998).  Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Book Five: LifeSkills Training.  Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Botvin, Gilbert J., Eli Baker, Linda Dusenbury, Elizabeth M. Botvin and Tracy Diaz.  “Long-term Follow-up Results of a Randomized Drug Abuse Prevention Trial in a White Middle-class Population.” JAMA, vol. 273, no. 1, April 12, 1995, pp. 1106-1112.

Botvin, Gilbert J., Eli Baker, Linda Dusenbury, Stephanie Tortu, and Elizabeth M. Botvin.  “Preventing Adolescent Drug Abuse Through a Multimodal Cognitive-Behavioral Approach:  Results of a 3-Year Study.”  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 58, no. 4, 1990, pp. 437-446.