PEER-TO-PEER CONNECTION

March 2017

What's New in Prevention?

Peer-to-Peer approaches are an effective way to prevent alcohol and substance use among youth.  Peer facilitated prevention provides an opportunity for young people to engage in learning, exchange ideas, and develop skills in programs led by their peers.

As a method of sharing information and knowledge, peer-to-peer has been shown to be very effective. Young people are more likely to listen to people like them. It is a basic characteristic of humans as social beings.  People are more likely to listen to and act on information if it is presented to them by someone that they can identify with, respect and from whom they can model behavior. Youth relate to one another.  They understand the unique experiences and pressures that influence their choices around substance use.  While adults may try to relate, they don’t “get it” on the same level that youth of similar ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status do. 

Peer facilitators are often able to put information into proper context which becomes extremely beneficial for participants. The facilitators can relate easily to the lives, situations and  even may speak the same language as those with whom they are working. Youth look up to the facilitators. Many admire and want to emulate them.

Another powerful element of using peer-to-peer approaches in substance abuse prevention is the opportunity for participants to get to know each other, to share their stories and experiences. This type of sharing leads to the formation of enduring relationships among peers as youth develop a strong sense of connection with each other. The act of sharing information between peers benefits both parties, as each is able to learn from the other's life story and personal experience.  Young people respect wisdom, especially when it involves people like themselves who have been through a difficult situation. 

A Junior who participates in the E3: Encourage, Empower, Engage substance abuse prevention program at East Windsor High School pointed to the fact that their peers share real life experiences of being in situations in which alcohol was present and how they respond.  

With better weather, prom and graduation season, youth substance use tends to increase in the spring and summer months.  The Partnership currently offers two peer-to-peer substance abuse prevention programs – Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Encourage, Empower, Engage (E3).  It can also help to identify and design peer-led approaches that will work in many different settings. 

Contact Monique to learn more about how to implement peer-to-peer approaches in your school or organization.