New Anti-Drug Program Aims To Identify Kids At High Risk For Addiction

By Seth Ferranti 10/03/16

Preventure focuses on identifying kids at high risk for addiction and offering them coping techniques to prevent future substance use issues.

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New Anti-Drug Program Aims To Identify Kids At High-Risk For Addiction

Many Americans grew up being bombarded with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign in the 1980s and D.A.R.E. in the 1990s. But these programs were largely scare tactics that didn’t stop kids from doing drugs.

A new anti-drug program, Preventure, looks at how different traits in kids affect their temperament which can influence their pathway to addiction. Trials have shown that if kids are tested early enough, those who exhibit the highest risk can be identified and the risky traits targeted to prevent addiction problems before they occur.

“Preventure is a school-based intervention aimed at reducing adolescent drug and alcohol use in high-risk teenagers,” their website reads. “Students with high-risk personality profiles as identified by a screening questionnaire are invited to participate in two 90-minute group workshops. The workshops focus on motivating adolescents to understand how their personality style leads to certain emotional and behavioral reactions. Four different workshops are run, each focused on developing specialized coping skills relevant to following personality styles.”

The program was developed by Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, and is being tested in Canada, Australia and Europe. Instead of doing damage control and trying to help the teen once they are already hooked on drugs, Preventure looks at the difference between the majority of kids who try drugs and go on to live normal lives and the small minority who try drugs and develop substance use disorders.

With conventional addiction models like AA and NA, which some consider to be outdated, Preventure attempts to identify the kids before they ever do drugs and give them cognitive behavioral techniques that will allow them to deal with their emotional and cognitive issues to prevent future substance use issues.

The four traits that researchers have identified as high risk for addiction include sensation-seeking, impulsivity, anxiety sensitivity and negative thinking. The program has found that most at-risk kids can be discovered early on, and three of the four traits have also been linked to mental health problems like ADHD and other anxiety or hyperactivity based issues.

Preventure claims it's necessary to start testing kids in middle school. If they test as "at-risk," the kids can start the program which consists of workshops that focus on coping skills and interventions targeting personality risk factors.

JAMA Psychiatry published a study in 2013 that included 2,600 randomized 13- and 14-year-olds from 21 schools in England involved in the program. Preventure claims the data shows that among high-risk kids, binge drinking was cut by 43% and overall drinking by kids at the schools dropped by 29%.

The program has been shown to reduce not only alcohol consumption and binge drinking in teenagers, but the likelihood of initiating illegal drug use and the frequency of it. By managing the traits that put kids at risk, Preventure's methods may change the trajectory of a teenager's submersion into the world of illegal drugs, alcohol and addiction. 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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