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FRANK Friends

FRANK Friends is a school-based peer-led drug prevention intervention.


The latest UK data indicate that 37% of 15 year olds have tried an illicit drug. There are short-term and long-term effects on health from illicit drug use. Schools provide a good way of reaching a large number of young people every year.

Studies evaluating school-based drug prevention interventions have found few prevent or reduce drug use, with only a handful taking place in the UK. In response, an effective school-based peer-led smoking prevention intervention (ASSIST) was adapted to deliver information from the UK national drug education website

In interviews and focus groups in the pilot study of this intervention, students, teachers, and parents all thought the intervention was acceptable, easy to deliver and could have promising effects on drug use. The pilot study was too small to evaluate whether FRANK Friends could prevent drug use, and so a larger trial to evaluate effects on illicit drug use will be conducted.

School-based peer-led intervention

This trial will introduce and evaluate FRANK Friends (the “intervention”) which is a school-based peer-led drug prevention intervention. In each school, students in UK year 9 (aged 13-14) will be asked to nominate fellow students who they think are influential.

Students in the top 17.5% of nominations are asked to become peer supporters. Those who agree receive 2 days' training on the information on the effects and risks of drugs, minimising potential harms, and the law from, and also practise communication skills. They are then asked to have conversations about the harms of drug use with their peers over a 10-week period and record them in a diary.

During these 10 weeks, peer supporters receive four follow-up visits from trainers to provide support. There will be 48 schools in the trial, randomly split into two groups - twenty-four schools will receive the intervention, and twenty-four will continue with usual practice. The trial will include approximately 5,655 students.

Evaluating drug use prevention

Before the intervention is delivered, questionnaire data will be collected from all students in year 9. In these questionnaires the use of drugs ever, in the past year, and month will be measured as well as lifetime and weekly smoking, and quality of life.

These things will be measured again 24 months after the intervention is delivered. The researchers will be looking to see if there are positive changes in student drug use, and whether these changes are greater within schools that received the intervention compared to schools that did not.

Interviews with peer supporters, other students and trainers will also be conducted and training sessions will be observed. Finally, the cost of the intervention will be calculated, and weighed up against any benefits in terms of student drug use, to see if it provides good value for money.


Key facts

Start date 1 Mar 2019
End date 30 Jun 2022
Grant value £1,465,055
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