The Drug Resistance Strategies (DRS) Project, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), was one of the first programs to examine how adolescents refused drug offers.

The research, which originally began in 1989, grew out of the need to understand the adolescent perspective on drugs and drug offers as well as how they assess risks and make good decisions.

Applying a narrative prevention approach developed by Michelle Miller-Day and Michael Hecht, stories from thousands of youth were collected and transformed into a multimedia, multicultural prevention program keepin’ it REAL. The curriculum provides teens with effective ways to stay away from drugs—straight from other teens.

The acronym REAL stands for the four ways the adolescents resist drug offers - Refuse, Explain, Avoid, and Leave - and represent the central message of the curriculum. These easy to remember resistance strategies help kids stay away from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by preparing them to act decisively and comfortably in difficult situations.  Students also learn how to assess risk, value their perceptions and feelings, and communicate effectively.

DRS implemented the curriculum in seventh grade classrooms in Phoenix, Arizona, where students receiving keepin’ it REAL reported lower alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use than students who did not receive the program. The effectiveness of the curriculum resulted in the selection of keepin’ it REAL as one of SAMHSA’s model programs and its listing on the National Registry of Effective Programs.


The Drug Resistance Strategies project has been conducted in a series of phases, each funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). These grants, DRS 1-4, as well as the current project DRS Rural are described below:

The High School Study 1988-1991 - DRS 1

Two high schools in Mesa and Tempe, Arizona participated in these studies which identified the four resistance strategies (Refuse, Avoid, Explain, and Leave) that became REAL, the core of the DRS Project. [Read More...]

The Middle School Studies 1993-2001 - DRS 2 & 3

Having discovered that drug involvement begins before high school, DRS researchers targeted middle-school students in their next phase of prevention testing and research. Michael Hecht, Principle Investigator, obtained funding from NIDA for the Drug Resistance Strategies Minority Project (DRS2). Working in collaboration with Melanie Trost, DRS2 extended research to middle school-aged youth and was the first series of studies to examine ethnicity and adolescent drug resistance. [Read More...]


Starting in 2003, the DRS team began work to determine the best grade level to introduce the prevention program (5th vs. 7th grade), including elementary school implementation in addition to middle school. In addition, work on DRS4 has continued examining the relationships among acculturation, decision-making, different types of norms, identity, family structure, parent-child communication, and drug use. [Read More...]

DRS Rural

In 2008 the DRS team was awarded a NIDA grant to evaluate the effectiveness of the original curriculum, which was grounded in the cultures of the southwest and compare that to a new version, “regrounded” in the rural culture of Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Additionally, the DRS team will also study how teachers adapt both versions to their classroom. Click here to visit the kiR Rural website. [Read More...]

Collaboration with D.A.R.E. America

D.A.R.E. America licensed keepin’ it REAL from Penn State University for national and international distribution starting September 2009. A D.A.R.E. version of the curriculum was developed cooperatively, including three sets of new, national videos for rural, suburban and urban schools. The curriculum was pilot tested by Michelle Miller-Day, Magi Colby, and Michael Hecht of Penn State and then revised in cooperation with Anita Bryan, BJ McConnell, Bobby Robinson, and Scott Gilliam of D.A.R.E.  The collaboration was launched at D.A.R.E.’s national and international meeting in Orlando, Florida in July 2009. This collaboration makes keepin’ it REAL the most widely disseminated middle school program in the world.
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