Study Details

The European Drug Abuse Prevention Trial began in 2003 and continues today. Results have shown that comprehensive social influence programmes do help prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.


The project has two phases:


PHASE I: Testing a New Drug Use Prevention Curriculum – 2003-2005


PHASE II: Disseminating the EU-Dap Results and Best Practices - 2006-2009



Phase I – Testing a New Drug Prevention Curriculum



In most European junior and senior high schools, interventions take place to protect against using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Most of these programmes, however, have never been adequately evaluated through a rigorous scientific methodology.  

In the absence of drug use prevention programmes with solid evidence of effectiveness, there is a need to evaluate programmes, especially in European countries. The EU-Dap project aims to fill this gap in knowledge.

The EU-Dap project aims to provide European schools and health authorities with useful information to implement effective interventions for the prevention of drug use, and with methods to evaluate the effectiveness of such school-based interventions.
The programme tested was specifically designed for European schools, using principles and methods deemed as most useful in preventing drug use.

Evaluation results of phase I demonstrated that the EU-Dap programme was effective in reducing the onset of smoking, alcohol intoxication and use of other drugs.

Unplugged – the School Programme Tested

The programme curriculum named "Unplugged" which was evaluated in phase I was created by a team of European public health practitioners and researchers known as the EU-Dap Intervention Planning Group. The programme is based on the Comprehensive Social Influence Model* and aims for universal prevention**.

* Comprehensive Social Influence programmes combine life skills education with normative education and knowledge acquisition on substances
** universal prevention refers to activities aiming to avoid or delay the use of substances by all youths, irrespective of their background risk profile. The assumption of universal prevention is that it is important to reduce the whole bulk of new users.

During the evaluation in phase I, the "Unplugged" programme was administered in randomly selected intervention schools, while control schools proceeded without the programme.

Intervention schools also combined parental involvement or leadership of class peers.

Three combinations were implemented in three groups of intervention schools:

  • Basic curriculum: "Unplugged" programme led by teachers to students;
  • Parent component: "Unplugged" programme plus the involvement of parents;
  • Class-Peer component: "Unplugged" programme plus the involvement of peers.


The "Unplugged" curriculum consists in 12 one-hour lessons, administered by school teachers, trained in a specific 2.5 day training session.

The curriculum and full descriptions of the lessons are available for free.

Study Procedure

The implementation and evaluation of the EU-Dap programme was developed by researchers and practitioners of the Study Design Group .

Nine centres  in seven countries coordinated the study in respective regions.

A minimum of 15 schools were recruited by each centre whereas the centres in Stockholm and Turin engaged twice as many schools. The characteristics of the participating schools were defined by the Search Coordinating Group (SCG)   and are described in the Study Protocol .

Random Assignment of Schools

The three intervention combinations were compared to a control group. The assignment of schools to the intervention or control conditions was done at random by the study coordinating centre.  Within each school, at least two classes participated. The intervention schools followed the "Unplugged" programme and the control schools followed, if anything, the usual health education programme.

Evaluation of Results

The programme aimed to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs. The research team examined the differences in initial use and regular use between youth in the intervention and control schools by way of a self-completed questionnaire.

The questionnaire was administered to students of both intervention and control schools during the first month of the 2004-2005 school year to collect baseline information on:

·         social environment;

·         one's own substance use;

·         knowledge and opinions about substances;

·         substance use in the immediate environment;

·         family and social environment;

·         school environment and school climate;

·         problems and skills.

Using the same questionnaire, a second assessment took place three months after completing the “Unplugged” programme (May-June 2005). A subsequent follow-up took place one year after the first follow-up (September-October 2006) in order to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the "Unplugged" programme.

To protect the identity of the youth and the confidentiality of their responses, the questionnaires were identified by a code  that was independently generated by each participant. A total of 150 schools and over 7000 students participated in the EU-Dap Trial.

The implementation of the "Unplugged" programme

The "Unplugged" curriculum (12 school-hours) was led by trained teachers in the intervention classes. These teachers participated in a 2.5 day training session prior to the start of the programme where they received the "Unplugged" teaching manual.

The Parent component included three evening seminars led by an expert outside the school who was appointed by the local EU-Dap coordinator.

The Class-Peer component was carried out by designated students in each class with minimal supervision by the teachers.

The “Unplugged” lessons were taught during the 2004-2005 school year. The total class time required to teach the lessons is shown in the following table: (click to see the table)

The project overview with timeline is outlined in the following table: (click to see the table)

The implementation of the programme, the difficulties experienced by the teachers in implementing the Units, and possible suggestions for improvements were investigated and registered through specific monitoring forms all along the implementation phase. 

What are the results?

The "Unplugged" programme was found to be effective in preventing the onset of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The parental and peer components did not add any additional effectiveness to the "Unplugged" programme. However, anecdotal feedback from parents and teachers indicate that the parental component adds value to the programme.

More details can be found in the EU-Dap Final Report

Phase II – Disseminating the EU-Dap Results and Best Practices

EU-Dap has been funded for a second phase which started 1 May 2006. The project team aims to spread the programme and research methods and results in new regions and countries. Centres in the Prague, Czech Republic and Poznan, Poland have joined the EU-Dap Consortium.

The activities in Phase II include revising the “Unplugged” Teaching Manual, producing a dissemination guide for teachers, principals and decision-makers, and evaluating the uptake of comprehensive social influence programmes.

Revised version of “Unplugged”

Revisions were based on teacher feedback and barriers identified during EU-Dap phase I, and were made by the Intervention Review Group

The revised version of “Unplugged” includes:

-         A new lesson order

-         A student workbook

-         Shorter lessons for easier implementation

-         Innovative activities

According to the new structure, the 12 lessons are:

1.      Opening Unplugged

2.      To be or not to be in a group

3.      Choices – Alcohol, Risk and Protection

4.      Your beliefs, norms and information – do they reflect reality?

5.      Smoking the cigarette drug – Inform yourself

6.      Express yourself

7.      Get up, stand up

8.      Party tiger

9.      Drugs - Get informed

10.  Coping competences

11.  Problem solving and decision making

12.  Goal setting


The student’s workbook, newly developed, is intended as a personal workbook of the student, and contains activities that students are to work through during the Unplugged units.


Apart from the revision of the Unplugged materials, a new appealing graphic version was developed, and the new program, together with the student workbook and the cards, is freely available.

A Guide for Implementing Comprehensive Social Influence Curricula in Schools

The Intervention Dissemination Group  developed a dissemination guide, named Preventing Substance Abuse Among Students, and designed the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Guide in increasing the adoption of CSI programs in the European schools.

The Guide is written with three audiences in mind: national and local authorities, principals and teachers. Composed of five parts, this guide provides information on implementing Comprehensive Social Influence (CSI) curricula in schools.

The first part consists of an introduction which reviews the EU-Dap trial and explains better practices in preventing tobacco, alcohol and other drug use among adolescents. The next three chapters are dedicated to the respective audiences. Each chapter provides relevant and practical information to identify and overcome barriers in order to effectively implement CSI curricula in schools. The final part is resource toolbox.

Evaluating the Uptake of Comprehensive Social Influence Programmes in Schools

In order to know whether the dissemination strategy has been successful, an evaluation on the uptake of Comprehensive Social Influence programmes is necessary.



The evaluation of the effectiveness of the Guide in increasing the adoption of CSI programs in the European schools has been designed according to a pre-post test study design.

Each EU-Dap centre investigate the presence of school-based Comprehensive Social Influence (CSI) programmes to prevent drug prevention in their Regions, before (October 2007) and after (October 2008) the dissemination of the Guide.

The EU-Dap Centres participating to the evaluation follow either a simple pre-post test study design, or a controlled pre-post design. Spain, Greece, Poland and Belgium are conducting a pre-post-test uncontrolled study and Italy (both Torino and L’Aquila), Austria and Czech Republic are conducting a pre-post test controlled study.

Results will be based on an observed variation in the proportion of classes in appropriate grades adopting a CSI program in the school-year(s) following the release of the dissemination Guide.

The information is collected by way of a questionnaire which is administered via mail to a random sample of classrooms in the intervention and controls areas.



Results will be available in March 2009.

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