LifeSkills Training (LST)

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The LifeSkills Training (LST) program is a school-based substance abuse prevention curriculum.

LST originally targeted middle and junior high school students, but is now used with elementary and high school students as well.

The program was developed in the late 1970s and aims to modify drug-related knowledge, attitudes, and norms; teach skills for resisting social influences that encourage drug use; and foster the development of general personal and social skills.

The program originally focused on preventing cigarette smoking, and the curriculum was later expanded to include preventing the use of alcohol and other drugs.

The LST curriculum is taught over three consecutive school years, beginning in the 6th and 7th grade. The program consists of 15 lessons in the first year, followed by 10 “booster” lessons during the program’s second year and 5 booster lessons in the third year.

The booster lessons are designed to reinforce earlier material and to provide additional opportunities for skill development and practice. There is also an LST curriculum for elementary school children, beginning in 3rd or 4th grade, and for high school students, beginning in 9th or 10th grade. Regular classroom teachers usually implement the LST curriculum; however, the program can be implemented by outside health professionals or older student peers.

Rather than merely teaching information about the dangers of drug abuse, LST promotes healthy alternatives to risky behavior through activities designed to:

  • Teach students the necessary skills to resist social (peer) pressures to smoke, drink, and use drugs
  • Help students to develop greater self-­‐esteem and self-­‐confidence
  • Enable students to effectively cope with anxiety
  • Increase their knowledge of the immediate consequences of substance abuse
  • Enhance cognitive and behavioral competency to reduce and prevent a variety of health risk behaviors

The LST program may be used with elementary, middle and junior high, or high school students. It has been studied extensively with white, middle-class participants from suburban and rural areas, as well as with African-American and Hispanic youth in urban settings.

The program has been evaluated in various formats and for effectiveness at reducing risky behaviors in several samples of students since its inception.

Program impacts have been assessed immediately following program completion and at intervals up to six years later. Implementation of the program has varied somewhat in length (12 to 20 sessions, with the average being 15) and format of program delivery (e.g., teacher-led versus peer-led, intensive mini-course versus regular weekly sessions, and implementation feedback for teachers versus no feedback).

More recently, the program has been modified for use with elementary students. In addition, studies have tested the effects of an added violence-reduction component and whether LST concepts are effective when infused into the content of students’ daily classroom curricula.

Outcomes measured include impacts on driving behavior, HIV-risk behavior, aggression, and substance use—cigarette use only, alcohol use only, or cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana use.

For more information please contact: Helen Varvi,  Deputy Director at 732.254.3344 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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