With the heroin epidemic continuing to pick up speed in our country, many wonder what it’s going to take to see problems surrounding drug addiction change. Many have proposed and continue to advocate for medication assisted treatment, otherwise known as harm reduction, as the answer to the drug crisis. Others have also rallied for Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, or amnesty programs for addicts who fear legal repercussions. While there has been some success with these different initiatives, it doesn’t address the issue of prevention.
Many would agree that the “old-school” prevention methods for drug addiction have not worked. From the DARE program to “Just Say No” to Scared Straight, these tactics have done little to stop young people from becoming addicted. Most who suffer from drug addiction, begin taking drugs when they are in their teens. As of 2014, 1.3 million or 1 in every 12 adolescents (between 12-17 years old) suffered from a substance abuse problem. So how do we stop it before it starts? Could we be doing more to prevent addiction?
Other countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain have begun testing and making strides with more innovative prevention methods and strategies. A new program called Preventure, shows how different personality traits and temperaments can lead adolescents into drug addiction. Realizing that not everyone who experiments with illicit drugs and alcohol becomes addicted, the Preventure program aims to determine what separates them from those that do succumb to drug addiction.
The program, created by Patricia Conrod, professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, uses personality testing to determine if specific traits are present, and if so, designing a plan for each adolescent to cope with these traits. They have determined 4 traits as risk factors for teen drug addiction, which include: Impulsiveness, sensation-seeking, anxiety-sensitivity and hopelessness. 3 of the 4 traits are linked to mental health diagnoses, which are also precursors for substance abuse. For instance, impulsiveness can be associated with ADHD and hopelessness to depression.
Furthermore, a teen who begins abusing drugs and/or alcohol to ease their anxiety-sensitivity, may be doing so for completely different reasons than a child that is impulsive. One may be reacting to peer pressure, while the other individual hopes to drown out uncomfortable or anxious feelings. The fact of the matter is, no matter which of the traits a teen may be suffering from, they need help all the same.
How The Program Works
Conrod stated in a recent news report, “Although genetic predisposition and the environment are strong factors that can lead to substance misuse, research has shown that personality traits are very strong predictors.”
The program aims to reduce the likelihood of drug addiction within the teen population, through the practice of Coginitve Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for those that are identified to have one or more of the 4 traits. CBT is a highly recommended and popular form of therapy used throughout the field of Drug and Alcohol, as well as mental health. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy challenges negative thought patterns about self and/or the world, in order to counteract negative behavior.
Preventure begins with an intensive 2-3 day crash course for teachers on the practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Once the school year begins, each middle school student takes a personality test and months later, 90-minute workshops are offered to the entire school. In hopes to steer clear of stigmatizing students as “high risk”, the program does not disclose the true reason for the workshops. While the entire school has a chance to sign up, only a certain number of slots are available, which in that time, those that have tested high for risk factors are selected. Labeled as “A Way to Channel your Personality toward Success” many students sign up for the workshop. If an individual asks for the reason of their selection, they are given an honest answer, but usually this does not occur. This reduces the possibility of students turning their personality testing into a self-fulling prophecy.
Overall, the workshops teach students coping skills specific to the emotional and/or behavioral issues that have been determined. Through the use of CBT techniques, these individuals are encouraged to use these tools when specific situations come about.
Has There Been Success?
So far, Preventure has been tested in 8 trials which were all done at random. Throughout these trials, binge drinking, alcohol-related issues and drug use have all been reduced. Particularly in London, one study found that interventions targeting high-risk adolescents reduced the use of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs over a 2 year period.
Another example shows a 40% decrease in the risk of alcohol consumption and a 55% decline in binge-drinking among middle-schoolers with an average age of 13. As these are only two examples, several more can be found on the Preventure Program. They prove that the school-based model of personality testing and intervention can be beneficial in regards to lowering the risk of drug addiction.
Based on the success so far, the American government should consider initiating this program or something similar in our country. While lawmakers continue to push medication on already addicted individuals and continue to prevent overdoses with the use of Narcan, they have done little in regards to prevention methods. Drug addiction continues to spiral out of control in our country, destroying our communities and families. This new method of adolescent personality testing is definitely worth a shot.
Contact Clearbrook For Drug Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you love is suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism, we can offer you the quality care you are looking for. With over 4 decades of experience, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been effectively treating those afflicted with the disease of addiction. Unfortunately we have witnessed firsthand what the drug epidemic has done to this country, but we have also seen what recovery can do for both the addict and their family. If you are ready to make a change in your life, contact our Admissions Specialists today. They are available 24 hours a day.