WHITE PLAINS, NY – Countries around the world continue to grapple with the problem of teenage drug abuse. In their search for effective prevention programs, more and more countries are turning to programs proven to work in America. Such is the case in Italy, where health professionals and educators have turned to the Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST) program, extensively tested and widely regarded as America’s top prevention program for children and adolescents.
In the Mediterranean culture, young people start drinking at a much earlier age than in other regions. A recent survey showed that drinking and drug use in Italy increases between ages 13 and 15 years old. To combat that, researchers in Italy have adapted, translated and implemented the LST program first in Milan and more recently in schools throughout the Lombardy region of Italy. Through the LST program, students not only learn how to resist pressures to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use illicit drugs. They also learn important life skills such as problem-solving, how to manage stress and anxiety, and how to communicate clearly. The combination of drug resistance skills and life skills has proven to be a powerful formula for preventing drug use. Studies in the US show that LST can cut rates of drug use in half, and in some cases by as much as 80% compared to teens not receiving LST.
The Regional Observatory on Drug Addiction (OReD) of Lombardy, Italy, is spearheading this project. Ultimately, they hope to see that all students in the country receive the LST program. The OReD of Lombardy, under the auspices of Eupolis Lombardia and in association with the Regional Network on Addiction Prevention, supports different prevention programs throughout the schools in its region.
Dr. Veronica Velasco, a psychologist and researcher at ORed, is the manager of the LST project in Lombardy under the direction of Mr. Corrado Celata. She recently met with LST developer, Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, and reported on the adaptation of the program and its dissemination in Italy.
“We chose LST because it was clearly the highest quality program available,” said Dr. Velasco. “It was also very important to us that LST is evidence-based, and fits all 16 NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) principles of prevention.”
“We are thrilled that more than 1,600 teachers and 20,000 students are participating in one of the first region-wide health projects ever delivered in Italy,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, program developer and professor emeritus at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College. “Dr. Velasco is leading a highly dedicated team of health professionals and educators in the implementation of LST in Italy, and we are delighted to hear of its success there.”
The project started in Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region, and then expanded to the rest of Lombardy. Lombardy is a very densely populated area (10 million people) with 15 health communities and 150 schools. Dr. Velasco and Dr. Botvin will present the details of this project at the annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research on May 30, 2014 in Washington DC.