An official website of the United States government

LifeSkills Training

Program Synopsis

Designed to facilitate personal and social skills development related to general life skills and substance abuse, this school-based intervention is a series of classroom sessions with lectures, discussions, coaching, and practice to enhance students’ self-esteem, feelings of self-efficacy, ability to make decisions, and ability to resist peer and media pressure. The studies showed reduced tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and polydrug use.

Program Highlights

Purpose: Emphasizes personal and social skills development related to general life skills and substance abuse (1990).
Age: 11-18 Years (Adolescents)
Sex: Female, Male
Race/Ethnicity: American Indian, Asian, Black (not of Hispanic or Latino Origin), Hispanic or Latino, White (not of Hispanic or Latino Origin)
Program Focus: Tobacco Use Prevention
Population Focus: People who do not Smoke
Program Area: Tobacco Control
Delivery Location: School (K-College)
Community Type: This information has not been reported.
Program Materials

Preview and order the materials from the developer

Program Scores

EBCCP Scores
(1.0 = low,   5.0 = high)
RE-AIM Scores

In 2001, an estimated 11% of youths ages 12 to 17 had used an illicit drug during the month immediately prior to being interviewed for the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse - an increase from 10% in 2000.

The LifeSkills Training (LST) program seeks to influence major social and psychological factors that promote the initiation and early use of substances. LST is a middle school (11 to 14 years old) curriculum that is delivered in a series of classroom sessions over 3 years. The sessions use lecture, discussion, coaching, and practice to enhance students' self-esteem, feelings of self-efficacy, ability to make decisions, and ability to resist peer and media pressure. LST consists of three major components that address critical domains found to promote substance use. Research has shown that students who develop skills in these areas are far less likely to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors. Each component focuses on a different set of skills:

  • Drug Resistance Skills enable young people to recognize and challenge common misconceptions about substance use, as well as deal with peer and media pressure to engage in substance use.
  • Personal Self-Management Skills help students examine their self-image and its effects on behavior, set goals and keep track of personal progress, identify everyday decisions and how they may be influenced by others, analyze problem situations, and consider the consequences of alternative solutions before making decisions.
  • General Social Skills give students the necessary skills to overcome shyness, communicate effectively to avoid misunderstandings, use both verbal and nonverbal assertiveness skills to make or refuse requests, and recognize that they have choices other than aggression or passivity when faced with tough situations.

LST emphasizes personal and social skills. Some of the material included in the program relates to the acquisition of general life skills, whereas other material relates in a more direct and specific way to the problem of substance abuse. The five major components are:

  1. a cognitive component designed to present information concerning the short- and long-term consequences of substance abuse, current prevalence rates, and social acceptability, as well as the process of becoming dependent on tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana;
  2. a decision making component designed to foster the development of critical thinking and responsible decision making;
  3. a coping skills training component designed to provide students with techniques for coping with anxiety;
  4. a social skills training component, including both general social skills and assertiveness techniques that can be used to effectively resist direct peer pressure to smoke, drink, or use drugs; and
  5. a self-improvement project designed to provide students with techniques (self-evaluation, goal-setting, record-keeping, and self-reinforcement) for changing specific personal skills or behaviors.

The program is administered over 3 years with the primary implementation in either grades 6 or 7 and booster sessions implemented during the next 2 years.

Participants in the study were White, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American students, ages 11 to 18 years. An age appropriate version of the LST program for upper elementary school students is also available. It contains 24 classes (8 classes per year) to be taught during either grades 3-5 or 4-6.

The program is suitable for implementation in the classroom.

In addition to a LifeSkills-trained provider (teacher, counselor, or health professional), a curriculum set consisting of a teacher's manual, student guide, and relaxation tape are required.

The LifeSkills program has been extensively tested in over a dozen federally-funded studies.

Key results include the following:

  • Initiation of cigarette smoking was reduced by 75% at the end of the program and by 67% 3 months after program completion.
  • Alcohol use was reduced by 54%, heavy drinking by 73%, and drinking to intoxication one or more times a week by 79%.
  • Marijuana use was reduced by 71%; weekly or more frequent use was reduced by 83%.
  • Multiple drug use was reduced by 66%.
  • Both long- and short-term substance abuse was reduced.
  • Pack-a-day smoking was reduced by 25%.
  • Use of inhalants, narcotics, and hallucinogens decreased by up to 50%.


Graph of study results

More Related Programs

NCI does not endorse nor recommend any commercial products, processes, or services, nor do they guarantee the success of programs made available on the site. The views and opinions of authors expressed on this website do not necessarily state or reflect those of the NCI, and may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Rather, the information is provided to help you make an informed decision about the best program options to meet your cancer control needs. Please see the disclaimer for further information.
Updated: 06/17/2020