Brief Program Description

Youth Message Development (YMD) is a 4-lesson, face-to-face delivered curriculum to prevent adolescent substance use among 13- to 15-year-olds by:

  • Increasing their knowledge of advertising techniques used to sell alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) products;
  • Developing their counter-arguing and critical-thinking skills in response to ATOD messages;
  • And helping them actively apply these skills and techniques to create youth-driven, anti-substance use messages.

The curriculum content is grounded in media literacy and social-cognitive theories, and guided by experiential-learning principles. 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.

Specific Outcomes

Evaluation studies demonstrate that YMD:

  • reduces pro-drug attitudes
  • reduces intentions to use drugs
  • increases ability to resist pressure to use

YMD is rated as EFFECTIVE on a variety of evidence-based programs registries including NREPP. Effective for improving knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about substance use.

Program Details
Type of Program: Prevention
Audience Size: Minimum 10 / Maximum 30
# of Lessons: 4
Length of Sessions: 20-25 minutes, if done individually (but can be combined,
as needed)
Frequency of Implementation: Once per week
Duration of Implementation (in weeks) up to 4 weeks, less if lessons combined
Recommended intervention site (school,
community, both)
School and Community
Audience Characteristics
Age Range Youth ages 13-15
Grade 8 – 10 Grade
Gender Both Male & Female

How it Works

Youth Message Development consists of four lessons that focus on the following topics:

LEVEL -1 Media reach and persuasion strategies used by advertisers to sell ATOD products
LEVEL -2 Claims used in ATOD messages, and counterarguments used in anti-ATOD messages
LEVEL -3 Production techniques used by advertisers including setting, colors, font size, and object placement
LEVEL -4 The active application of content learned in lessons 1–3 to the development of a poster that includes an anti-substance use message

Flexible Implementation! The four lessons can be taught in one, 90-minute session; separated across four, 20- to-25-minute sessions; or two, 45-minute lessons to groups of up to 30 students.

Additional youth involvement and application can be encouraged by including optional activities.

Required Materials

BUNDLE includes:

  • Teacher’s Guide with all four lessons
  • Student handouts
  • PowerPoint presentation


  • $350
  • All materials provided in digital format. License to print copies of student materials for two years. No limit on number of students.

Training Requirement (Preferred, but Not Required):

The second day of a 2-day training focuses on participants teaching mock lessons and receiving feedback.

  • 1-Day Training: $2,000 plus travel
  • 2-Day Training Cost: $2,500 plus travel
  • Min/Max Number of training participants: Minimum 1; Maximum 25

Additional Information

REAL Prevention Website:

SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) YMD Profile:

Program Contact

For Training, Program Information, & Materials Contact: