School-based drug education programs for adolescents can have a long-term positive impact on sexual behavior in addition to curbing substance abuse, according to a RAND Corp. study released Wednesday.
Researchers found that young adults who had been exposed to a popular drug abuse prevention program as adolescents were less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior five to seven years later, according to findings published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study provides the strongest evidence to date that drug abuse prevention programs can also curb risky sexual practices in young adulthood, according to RAND, a nonprofit Santa Monica-based think thank.
“The lessons these young people learned about how to avoid drug and alcohol abuse appears to have had a positive impact on their sexual behavior as well,” said Phyllis Ellickson, the lead author of the study and a RAND researcher.
The study found that youth exposed to a drug abuse education program were significantly less likely as young adults to either engage in sex with multiple partners or to have unprotected sex because of drug and alcohol use than their peers who had not received the training.
But researchers found that those who received drug prevention training were no more likely to use condoms consistently than their peers who did not receive the training, according to a RAND statement.
The RAND Health study tracked the experiences of 1,901 unmarried 21-year-olds who took part in a randomized controlled trial of Project ALERT, a drug use prevention program for middle school students developed by RAND. Study participants were exposed to Project ALERT while they attended middle school in South Dakota.