What We Do

The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research (TEC) has more than a five-decade history, dating back to the late 1960’s.  During this period of time, the Center, as part of the Department of Psychology at Colorado State University, has investigated various issues of social importance, always with a view to understanding how they impact disadvantaged populations. Utilizing broad-based, multidisciplinary and multifaceted research methods, Center faculty and staff have investigated community dynamics and the social, psychological and cultural factors that contribute to social problems such as substance use, delinquency, dropout, intimate partner violence, HIV/AIDS, anger and anger management, school violence, and environmental and other social problems. Since 1974, our work has focused on substance use among youth, with continuing support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.  Our special emphasis is to track substance use epidemiology among American Indian youth, to understand the etiology of use, and to develop effective substance use prevention interventions for Indigenous youth.

Research & Community

  • Our Youth, Our Future Study: Research tracking the substance use of American Indian (AI) youth who live on or near AI reservations since 1974.
  • Be Under Your Own Influence: A communications campaign designed to prevent substance use in American Indian middle-school students.
  • Community Readiness Model: To maximize chances for success, the Community Readiness Model offers tools to measure readiness and to develop stage-appropriate strategies.

Our Youth, Our Future Study

The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research (TEC) has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to track the substance use of American Indian (AI) youth who live on or near AI reservations since 1974. Over more than 40 years, our data, along with that of others show consistently that among all U.S. ethnic minority groups, AI adolescents report the highest levels of substance use. Moreover, reservation-based AI youth have been found to have higher substance use and other related problems than non-reservation AI youth. Through systematic tracking of annual substance use of AI youth, we have been able to identify key trends that have marked significant reductions in levels of use as well as periods of marked increase. Ongoing surveillance allows continued monitoring of significant trends that are critical for targeting both prevention and intervention efforts, both being vitally important given that substance use related problems, such as academic failure, delinquency, violent criminal behavior, suicidality, and especially for AI males, drinking-related arrests and alcohol-related mortality, are disproportionately high on most reservations.

In addition to our annual tracking of substance use epidemiology, we have also investigated the etiology of AI adolescent substance use and associated correlates of use, along with theory development and other topics relevant to the investigation of substance use among this group. Our investigations of the etiology and associated correlates of use have shown that there are both commonalities and differences in substance use etiology and risk between AI and non-AI youth, leading to theory development and other topics relevant to the investigation of substance use among this and other ethnic minority groups.


Be Under Your Own Influence

Be Under Your Own Influence (BUYOI) is a communications campaign designed to prevent substance use in middle-school students. This online version has been specifically designed for American Indian youth.

Be Under Your Own Influence Logo

BUYOI begins with the premise that one of the main tasks of adolescence is achieving greater independence and personal autonomy. Some adolescents see using drugs and alcohol as a way to be rebellious and independent. The BUYOI campaign turns this around to reframe substance use as an action that is inconsistent with both personal autonomy and being able to achieve one’s goals and aspirations. Its goal is to empower youth to make their own good decisions when it comes to using drugs and alcohol.

High school students, serving as role models to the younger youth, are at the heart of this intervention. They deliver campaign messages through various activities that emphasize their own non-use as an expression of their personal identity and as vital to achieving their aspirations. These local high school students literally become the faces of the campaign.


Community Readiness Model

The Community Readiness Model was developed at the Tri-Ethnic Center to assess how ready a community is to address an issue. The basic premise is that matching an intervention to a community’s level of readiness is absolutely essential for success. Efforts that are too ambitious are likely to fail because community members will not be ready or able to respond. To maximize chances for success, the Community Readiness Model offers tools to measure readiness and to develop stage-appropriate strategies.


Back to top of page