The literature review associated with this supplement ( found that research and practice have brought the field of school drug education to the point where good practices can now be identified with greater confidence than ever. The school drug education practice for which evidence is strongest is interactivity among students. There is clearly no role for sessions that are predominantly didactic or where the bulk of the exchange is between teacher and students. There remains an important role for accurate, balanced, drug-specific information; however, this information needs to be brought out through the interactive sessions and needs to take the form of relevant, practical “utility knowledge.”

The approach to junior high school drug education best supported by the scientific literature is the Social Influences Model, which aims to furnish young people with the insights and skills to deal effectively with the various social and cultural messages promoting substance use. This model, which has been the subject of much research over the past 25 years, conceptualizes adolescent use of substances to be largely the result of social influences from peers and the media to smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, or use other drugs. This model aims to create greater awareness of peer and broader environmental influences and to develop skills to analyse and minimize their impact.

In this supplement, we have added “internal influences” (many of which stem from adolescent development) as an important factor and have, hence, conceptualized three levels of influence. Examples of some of the factors at play within each level of influence are

  • internal influences (e.g., curiosity, emotional pressures, mental health problems, beliefs concerning risk and norms)

  • interpersonal influences (e.g., social acceptance, celebrations and religious observances, difficult life experiences and family influences)

  • media and cultural or environmental influences (e.g., media, community, and cultural norms)

We have tried to make the differences between these types of influences simple and easily understood by 12- to 14-year-olds. The three influencing factors are referred to as “how I influence myself,” “how others influence me,” and “how I am influenced by the world around me” in the actual learning themes of this resource.

Adolescents have a tendency to overestimate how many of their peers engage in substance use. Consistent with the Social Influences Model, this supplement gives strong attention to clarifying for students how many of their peers are—and are not—using substances or using them in risky ways. Through this so-called “normative approach,” the supplement aims to correct these misperceptions of student use and provide support for these norms. A decision-making model is introduced in Healthy Living 7, and opportunities to practise making decisions and acting on them assertively are provided throughout the grades. As identified by the Department of Education requirements and the scientific literature, attention is given to reducing risk factors or increasing protective factors. Recognizing that a significant proportion of Nova Scotian students experience harms as a result of their own or someone else’s use of alcohol, students are given opportunities through the supplement activities to anticipate harmful situations and explore how alcohol-related harms can be avoided or reduced.

6. For discussion of these influences, see Appendix B: Influences Affecting Students’ Substance-use Decisions.