Background: Drug use among youths is associated with negative health and social consequences. Even infrequent use increases the risk for serious adverse events by increasing risk-taking behaviors in intoxicated or impaired persons.
Purpose: To systematically review the benefits and harms of primary care–relevant interventions designed to prevent or reduce illicit drug use or the nonmedical use of prescription drugs among youths.
Data Sources: PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials through 4 June 2013; MEDLINE through 31 August 2013; and manual searches of reference lists and gray literature.
Study Selection: Two investigators independently reviewed 2253 abstracts and 144 full-text articles. English-language trials of primary care–relevant behavioral interventions that reported drug use, health outcomes, or harms were included.
Data Extraction: One investigator abstracted data from good- and fair-quality trials into prespecified evidence tables, and a second investigator checked these data.
Data Synthesis: Six trials were included, 4 of which examined the effect of the intervention on a health or social outcome. One trial found no effect of the intervention on marijuana-related consequences or driving under the influence of marijuana; 3 trials generally found no reduction in depressed mood at 12 or 24 months. Four of the 5 trials assessing self-reported marijuana use found statistically significant differences favoring the intervention group participants (such as a between-group difference of 0.10 to 0.17 use occasions in the past month). Three trials also reported positive outcomes in nonmedical prescription drug use occasions.
Limitations: The body of evidence was small, and there were heterogeneous measures of outcomes of limited clinical applicability. Trials primarily included adolescents with little or no substance use.
Conclusion: Evidence is inadequate on the benefits of primary care–relevant behavioral interventions in reducing self-reported illicit and pharmaceutical drug use among adolescents.
Primary Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.