FCD Prevention Works

Leveraging the truth about adolescent drinking & drug use

FCD Prevention Works was started in 1976 by Boston businessman-turned-interventionist Donald Cutler. Through his work with families devastated by addiction, Cutler saw a tremendous need for preventative measures and proactive solutions. His pioneering approach to school-based substance abuse prevention has since reached more than 2 million students, at nearly 1,000 schools, in more than 60 countries.

Most teens are not doing it. That’s the encouraging but unheralded truth about drinking and other drug use among today’s middle and high school students.

And it’s the impetus behind the innovative, prosocial efforts of FCD Prevention Works, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

“We find that students, parents and educators tend to overestimate the amount of adolescent drinking and other drug use,” says Tom Gee, executive director of FCD Prevention Works. “Our research on adolescent attitudes and behaviors, and our work with school communities across the country and around the world, reveals a much healthier picture than most people presume,” Gee adds.

Positive influences

FCD’s Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey provides schools with valuable data about student health. The survey measures students’ actual attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol and other drugs, as well as perceptions about the behaviors and attitudes of their schoolmates. According to Gee, many school leaders are pleasantly surprised about the health of their student body.

“Most students are making healthy decisions around alcohol or other drug use, and that’s a very powerful message for school communities to support and promote.”

Multiple factors outside the classroom influence adolescent attitudes and choices around alcohol and other drugs, as well. Parents top the list of influencers.

According to the FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey, adolescents in grades 6–12 are more likely to consider the opinions of parents over peers when making choices about risky behaviors such as drinking and other drug use. In addition to their extensive classroom work with students, FCD specialists work closely with parents, equipping families with the latest health-based information about the consequences of substance use.

“We approach our programs from a health perspective, not a moralistic or legal standpoint,” explains Gee.

Prevention specialists lead with the latest scientific findings, presenting information about adolescent brain chemistry and the risks associated with early substance use.

“We help parents see how they can be effective prevention agents in their own homes, including understanding the essential role they play in keeping kids drug free during childhood and adolescence,” Gee says.

Promising results

Adolescence is a time for young people to figure out who they are, what they care about, and who they want to be when they grow up. But when drinking, other drug use, or other high-risk behaviors are in the picture, those dreams can get put on hold—or lost for good.

FCD’s comprehensive approach to prevention, including their centerpiece program, Intensive Student Education, equips students with the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to make healthy choices. And, Gee says, the strategies are working. Students in schools that use FCD services and repeatedly use the FCD survey are 50–60 percent less likely to agree that “it’s cool to get drunk”  than in schools that do not.

“We reach students with the information and tools they can use—when it matters most,” says Gee.
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