Helping Teens Overcome Problems with Alcohol, Marijuana and Other Drugs (Insight)


Insight was born in the early days of student assistance programming. In the 1980s, Community Intervention recognized the need for student support groups to help students in trouble because of their alcohol and other drug use. Further, CI recognized the importance of keeping students in school rather than suspending them for a drug use policy violation. Ahead of its time, Insight was the first alternative to suspension.

Today, Insight is a nine-session curriculum published as Helping Teens Overcome Problems With Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs. The progam is for teens in grades 6-12 who are in trouble because of their alcohol, marijuana, or other drug use. Through interactive group meetings, teens look at their drug use, consider the consequences of their use and make a decision about continued use. Participants learn about how mood-altering substances affect their mental and physical health. Insight provides the group facilitator(s) the opportunity to informally assess the level of drug use among participants and to refer students to special services including addiction assessment, counseling, and other support groups.

Because of its increased use and the myth that it is a safe, natural drug, special emphasis is placed on marijuana use.


Insight Program Goals:

Long-term Goals:
  • Move through the stages of change from precontemplation to contemplation
  • Reduce alcohol, marijuana or other drug use
  • Improve school performance
  • Improve school attendance
  • Reduce behavior issues
  • Reduce drop out rates.

Short-term Goals: (by domain)
  • Individual Domain
    • Decrease number of disciplinary incidents with school administration and police
    • Increase communication skills
    • Increase ability to refuse to use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs
    • Increase knowledge of the harm caused by alcohol, marijuana and other drug use
    • Improve ability to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • School Domain
    • Improve attitudes toward school
    • Improve perception of school staff as a source of information about alcohol, marijuana and other drug use
    • Improve perception of school staff as a source of support
    • Increase attendance
    • Reduce discipline referrals
    • Increase use of referral resources by students within the school and community
    • Increase information on individual students' alcohol, marijuana and other drug use.
  • Family Domain
    • Improve family communication regarding alcohol, marijuana and other drug use
    • Increase parental monitoring of alcohol, marijuana and other drug use.
  • Peer Domain
    • Increase ability to resist peer pressure
    • Decrease involvement with peers who use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs
    • Increase social skills.
  • Community Domain
    • Strengthen relationships between police, schools, and substance abuse organizations.
Major Program Points
  • Based on sound research and scientific theories of change. This includes Prochaska and DiClemente's Stages of Change, the Cognitive Behavior Approach, and Risk Reduction/Protective Factors.
  • Structured for rigorous evaluation. The Student Workbooks contain a pre- and post-test to measure the outcome and impact of Insight on participants' knowledge, attitudes, drug use behavior, social support, and stage of change. If used consistently, these tools will provide excellent documentation of the results of your program.
  • Aligned with the National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Prevention Priciples for Children and Adolescents."
  • Type of Intervention: Most students join Insight as a result of a school tobacco use policy violation or MIP (Minor in Possession of tobacco). Others are referred as a result of a brief intervention by a parent, school nurse, teacher, physician, or other concerned person. Many youth refer themselves.
  • Races/ethnicity: Insight is used with all teens.
  • Geographic Distribution: Insight was piloted in 1979 and first published in 1987. The curriculum is now in its third revision (2003). It is used in both rural and urban communities in all 50 states.
  • Is Comprehensive/User-Friendly: Easy-to-use, scripted sessions in spiral bound Facilitator Guide and preprinted Student Workbook.
    Incorporates Supplemental Resources: Incorporates the most up-to-date videos, models, posters and guest speakers to enhance learning and increase motivation.
  • Encourages Community Support and Partnerships between school, parents, juvenile courts, the mental health and treatment community and others. Utilizes local community, state, and national resources.
    Where and when does Insight take place?
  • The group may take place at school or away from school such as a law enforcement center, youth serving agency or other central location.

Insight consists of nine sessions with optional booster sessions. Each session is completed within 40 to 60 minutes. Some facilitators choose to offer Insight once a week. Others choose to offer two or more sessions in sequence. Examples include:

  • During lunch, Monday through Friday, for two weeks
  • After school for two hours, Monday through Friday
  • From 8:00 am to 12:00 pm on the 2nd and 3rd Saturday of the month
  • During in-school suspension
  • Two, four-hour Friday evenings on the 2nd and 3rd Friday of each month.

Who facilitates Insight?
  • School Personnel: School nurse, health educator, police liaison officer (school resource officer), classroom teacher, assistant principal, guidance counselor, school social worker, student assistance coordinator, chemical health specialist and others
  • Health Care Providers: A chemical dependency treatment counselor, therapist, social worker, psychologist, public health educator, public health nurse, or other concerned health care professionals
  • Law Enforcement/Probation/Juvenile Court: Law enforcement officer, probation officer and police/school liaison officer (school resource officer)
  • Other: Youth worker, religious leader, parent, coach.