National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Active Involvement in Creating High School Substance Use Prevention Messages



The Youth Message Development (YMD) curriculum has a number of unique qualities. First, it has been shown to reduce substance use. Second, it is short and flexible so you can teach it alone or combined it with other prevention programs. It takes only 90 minutes and can be taught in 1, 2 or 4 sessions. The flexibility of the YMD curriculum allows you to integrate it into a variety of class subjects. For example, you might teach it as part of health, English, civics, and media courses. Third, in addition to preventing substance use this innovative curriculum also develops the higher order critical thinking skills valued in high school curricula under current teaching standards in many states.

We have designed YMD so that it is easy for you to use. The curriculum is guided by experiential learning principles by having youth first learn about advertising and how it is designed to influence behavior and then critically analyze existing ads as well as produce their own counter-advertising ads. The activities are designed to be engaging and encourage collaborations and discussions among participants. The curriculum incorporates ads for generating discussion and analysis, activities to increase involvement, and small group structure to facilitate learning from peers.

The YMD curriculum consists of four lessons. You can teach all four lessons in one 90 minute session, separated across four 20-25 minute sessions or two 45 minute lessons.  The four lesson titles and topics are:

Lesson 1: How Persuasive Strategies Work

Lesson 2: Analyzing Advertisements

Lesson 3: Production Techniques

Lesson 4: Planning a Poster

For further information about the curriculum, please contact Dr. Kathryn Greene at