Despite drug and alcohol awareness campaigns, the abuse of both among adolescents has doubled over the past ten years. By nature, this age group—dealing with simultaneous physical, emotional, and social transition—is prone to peer pressure and rebellion. But some students are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol use and abuse than others. Based on a combination of four traits (impulsivity, anxiety-sensitivity, sensation-seeking, and hopelessness), researchers are able to identify which adolescents are even more likely than their peers to become involved with illegal substances between the ages of 12 and 17. A new program, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, explores whether school-based interventions that target these specific personality types can have any marked impact on whether those students go on to abuse drugs or alcohol.
The program has been called the Adventure Trial, and its successful results have been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. First, the trial identified students at high-risk for substance abuse. Two thirds were entered into the Adventure Trial intervention, and one third received no intervention. Through Adventure Trial, teachers were intensively trained both on how to administer the intervention, and also how to assess students’ behavior and response to the program. The teachers then worked with students in two 90-minute group sessions. Six months later, follow-up surveys found that compared to their high-risk peers who received no intervention, students in the Adventure Trial had significantly lower frequency of alcohol use, lower amounts of alcohol consumption, fewer incidents of binge drinking, and fewer drinking-related problems.
Alcohol use and abuse among adolescents is no small problem. Often, parents are unaware of the behavioral and emotional issues their child is facing. In other cases, they may feel ill-equipped to get their child the necessary help to address the problem. One-on-one counseling and therapy can be helpful, especially if the child has experienced trauma, familial or financial instability, abuse, bullying, or other hardships. But sometimes counseling and therapy are not available. These school-based interventions, if they continue to prove effective, may be a sustainable, affordable and effective approach to reducing teen alcohol abuse among those students most prone to the behavior.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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