Potential Iatrogenic Effects of Drug Education and Preventive Intervention Programs

Susan E. Martin, Natl Institute on Drug Abuse

Since even effective medical interventions such as Polio vaccines can cause iatrogenic or harmful effects in a small number of the vaccinated persons, the likelihood of negative effects whith behavioral programs that have not undergone the rigorous testing that vaccines undergo is much larger. This presentation will review findings related to the possible detrimental effects resulting from substance use prevention interventions. For example, a review of studies published since 1980 (Werch and Owens 2002) identified 17 articles that reported one or more negative drug-related outcomes from an alcohol or drug prevention program that used an experimental or quasi-experimental research design. However, those studies are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg. Most practitioner-led program evaluations are not published, most drug prevention and drug education programs have not been subjected to the rigorous testing, and even interventions with demonstrated effectiveness may produce negative effects in some persons or subpopulations, and such findings are rarely published. The implications for research and practice will be discussed.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006