Many teens who dabble in alcohol and drugs don’t actually become addicted. However, it’s the few who do that are the major focus of psychiatry professor Patricia Conrod’s PreVenture strategy. This techniques aims to spot these at-risk teens even before they start doing drugs and alcohol, and to then equip them with skills to control emotions associated with addictive behavior.
How It Works
According to PreVenture, children who are prone to addiction exhibit at least one of four personality traits which, when addressed early, can significantly lower the risk of addiction . These personality traits are:
- Impulsiveness – a trait common among children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition which has already been found to increase proneness to substance abuse .
- Sensation-Seeking – a characteristic common among thrill seekers who are drawn to anything sensational including drugs and alcohol.
- Anxiety Sensitivity – a trait which often leads to panic disorder and then to substance abuse. Children may give in to peer pressure to drink because they’re anxious to fit in.
- Hopelessness – a characteristic found in many children, even those who excel in school academics or sports, who feel isolated, depressed
Typically, PreVenture takes place in a school environment, particularly during middle school. The process is conducted by teachers who’ve undergone a three-day crash course in preventive therapy techniques. At the start of each year, the children in the school undergo a personality test. A few months down the line, the students identified as having at least one of the at-risk personality features may, if they choose, attend follow-up workshops to help them deal with their most problematic trait. Group discussions are small and focused and they take place in a relaxed atmosphere free of stigma or labeling so children can properly learn the skills needed to cope with traits that would otherwise make addiction inevitable.
Advantages of PreVenture
The PreVenture strategy has been widely used in Europe, Canada and Australia and some of its known advantages are as follows:
- It’s proactive. It measures risk factors and tries to lessen them to stop addiction from rising. Trials have shown it can spot most at-risk children.
- It massively reduces teen alcoholism. A 2013 study involving 21 English schools found that it reduced binge drinking by 43 percent among at-risk children, and general drinking by 29 percent, even among students who were not part of the workshops .
- Other studies in 2009 and in 2013 also showed that PreVenture lessened the symptoms of impulsive actions, depression, and panic episodes .
- PreVenture has been more successful than other open but less proactive anti-drug initiatives of the past such as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” drive of the 1980s and the DARE concept of the 1990s.
Disadvantages of PreVenture
While PreVenture has its advantages, the following shortcomings are apparent:
- The initiative could do better if society took teenage drinking more seriously, some say. Instead, society shrugs it off as a natural part of teenage development. But the PreVenture initiative has shown that the problem is real.
- There’s no way of knowing for a fact that the identified youngsters are at more risk than others. It can’t be assumed that these others will never become addicted.
- Much of the responsibility seems to fall on the school despite the fact that the child doesn’t only exist in the school space. Parental involvement could make the whole process more holistic and therefore more successful .
PreVenture therapy aims to stop at-risk teens from becoming addicted. It does this by spotting and addressing personality traits that make the children vulnerable to addiction. After it's pursued more thoroughly, it has the potential to significantly reduce overall substance abuse in the world at large. For children or teens who may have already fallen into addiction, remember that the best route is still treatment. Feel free to visit our directory of adolescent treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to help them start their path to recovery.
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