Early Intervention Successful for Adolescents Using Prescription Drugs

Richard Spoth of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University recently conducted a follow-up to his previous study based on data from earlier research on the effects of substance use interventions. Prescription drug misuse (PDM) is rising rapidly and national health organizations and communities alike realize that it is quickly approaching epidemic levels. More and more young people are experimenting with prescription drugs at earlier ages. And as lifetime use continues to rise, the availability of drugs from family members or friends makes the problem even more difficult to conquer. Studies examining the effects of substance use interventions have shown that even those not targeted to PDM exclusively can have positive outcomes.

Spoth conducted several studies that extended his previous research on adolescent intervention and PDM. In three separate studies, Spoth looked at how early adolescent use led to lifetime use and how early interventions designed to focus on family and friend associations, as well as general substance use, reduced PDM use over a period of up to 14 years. He also examined the effectiveness, feasibility, and cost value of community-based programs for older adolescents. Spoth found that a family-focused program decreased opioid use and PDM by rates as high as 65%. A skills training component also proved effective at reducing overall drug use for all ages of participants.

Finally, the third study revealed that community-based programs provided significant benefits for older adolescents and young adults with PDM. This was especially true for high risk users. In fact, all three studies showed that high risk users were most positively impacted by the interventions, regardless of when they began using and what age they were at the time of the intervention. Spoth believes his findings provide additional support for the implementation of early interventions in order to combat PDM among young people. He said, “In conclusion, the extended and replicated findings from these studies underscore earlier findings about the benefits of relatively brief, cost-effective universal interventions implemented with quality in early adolescence.”

Spoth, Richard, Linda Trudeau, Chungyeol Shin, Ekaterina Rolston, Cleve Redmond, Mark Greenberg, and Mark Feinberg. Longitudinal effects of universal preventive intervention on prescription drug misuse: Three randomized controlled trials with late adolescents and young adults. American Journal of Public Health 103.4 (2013): 1209-E8. Print.

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  • Marvin

    March 11th, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    It appalling how so many youngsters abuse prescription drugs. There are so many drawbacks to it and problem is that most of them are at least somewhat aware of what it could do to them. And yet they continue to abuse these drugs. Maybe getting them early is the best way. Whatever works we must do it before this national epidemic gets any worse!

  • Chloe

    March 16th, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    What is UP with all of these people getting their hands on prescription drugs and then that turning into abuse?! Is this really so prevalent that even kids are getting hooked into it now?

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