Dissonance-based interventions for substance using alternative high school youth

Lori Holleran Steiker, Tara Powell, Jeremy T. Goldbach, Laura M. Hopson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article describes an innovative new intervention tailored to older youth who are already abusing drugs, but who are not diagnostically ready for treatment. The basic tenet of this intervention is to utilise adolescents engaged in drug use as 'experts' in the prevention curriculum adaptation activity. This activity then serves as a mechanism for their dissonance-based change. This process is designed to intervene with drug abusing youth prior to their development of substance dependence. The community-based design grew from a United States federally funded NIDA project (National Institute of Drug Abuse Mentored Research Scientist Award) which found that the youth who conduct programme adaptations were effectively engaged, animatedly discussing the payoffs and downsides of drug and alcohol abuse. It is maintained through this research that dissonance between their role of 'Preventionist' and their own substance abuse behaviours lead to shifts in attitudes and behaviours. Dissonance-based interventions have been successfully utilised for positive behavioural change with a variety of disorders, but have not yet been implemented with substance abusing youth. Findings of pilot research are shared along with implications for future research and interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-252
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Dissonance
  • Intervention
  • Prevention
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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