I think it is fair to say that majority of the prevention programs that we have implemented on a large scale in this country in order to prevent teenage drug abuse have failed. This is not to say that programs such as D.A.R.E. do not have the best of intentions in mind when they set forth to educate the youth of America on the dangers of drug addiction, but rather that their methodologies have been flawed from the start.
Fear Mongering At A Young Age
On a whole we have taken the route of fear-based prevention, meaning within our drug education programs we attempt to induce a level of fear within our teens so that they will be too afraid to ever try drugs. We tell them about the dangers of drug abuse and how they can die from trying certain substances, or we show them pictures and movies of car crashes that have occurred because of drug usage, but the issue is that fear is never a means to actually combat a problem. Fear is never a solution, and in this particular case, fear only causes certain individuals, who were probably not at risk for trying illicit substance in the first place, to avoid drug usage, but to kids who are already at risk, this fear is laughable. It does not factor into their decision-making, whether it is because the underlying causes driving their want to try substances are stronger than some tangential hypothetical fear, or because they don’t believe what they are being told, but either way attempting to scare kids into not trying drugs has not worked in the past and probably will never work in the future. They forget that addiction changes the actions and behaviors of those it enthralls.
Not to mention that these sort of prevention programs only address substance abuse. They tackle the issue from a very singular minded standpoint and they do not address the factors that lead to teenage drug abuse. They do not take a look at the teens as individuals, with individual needs and desires, but rather they issue blanket statements on the dangers of drugs and leave it at that. They also do not offer any additional support within the school system. They do not show teachers or other facility members how to address at-risk teens or even how to spot them, and so the kids are given information on how dangerous drugs are and then put in a position where they themselves are the only line of defense against using drugs.
The teens have to thwart peer pressure on their own and navigate the murky waters of their teenage minds all by themselves and as you can guess, this very often leads to teenage drug abuse even with them having the knowledge of how dangerous drugs can be.
Understanding this, and learning from the failures of the past a new prevention program was created, called Preventure, and it is tackling the issue of teenage drug abuse in a much different manner.
The program was developed by Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, and its goal is to employ personality testing in order to identify children who might be at risk for abusing substances. Once these teens are identified they are offered workshops, specifically suited to the traits that make them at-risk for drug abuse, so that they can learn coping skills and mechanisms that will allow them to avoid drug usage. The program is currently being tested in Europe, Canada, and Australia and it is showing promising results so far.
So often drug abuse is the result of some underlying issue and when these issues are not addressed it creates the perfect breeding ground for addiction to take shape. Preventure seeks to find these underlying issues in at-risk teens and then give them the much-needed support they need so that they do not have to fall into drug abuse, in order to self-medicate themselves.
In particular, the personality testing offered by Preventure looks for 4 traits that are common among teenage drug users, and are what experts believe to be good signifiers of the risk of teenage drug abuse. These traits are sensation seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity, and hopelessness. Teens who have one of these 4 traits are more than likely going to use drugs at some point during their teenage years and many can fall into addiction if they do not receive the help they need.
However, Preventure doesn’t just identify at-risk teens, it then works with them through a collaborative effort of teachers and other experts in the field. Teachers are given training on how they can provide psychological support to teens who may be experiencing issues that could result in drug abuse, and the teens themselves are then involved in programs that can help them to alleviate these issues.
The things that are so interesting about Preventure is that it is done in a non-invasive way, meaning that the students are not forced to participate and they are not even explicitly told why they are in certain workshops and not in others. They are simply given the help they need, without any stigma or judgment. If they are suffering from anxiety sensitivity, then they are allowed to attend workshops focused on that and so the teens receive the help them need but are not labeled “at-risk” or anything even resembling that. There is no getting stuck in a bad-track within the school system and the kids aren’t singled out in any way whatsoever, which I think is integral to tackling teenage drug abuse.
Often times within the American system of dealing with this problem, we label kids and put them in special classes or programs and because of this they are then only surrounded by kids who are suffering from the same issues as them. This does nothing but reinforces their own preconceived notions of themselves and very rarely presents them with a different way of solving their problems. But with Preventure this is not the case and so already at-risk kids are not further jeopardized.
Overall, Preventure offers a wonderful departure from our current prevention methods. The program seeks to address the underlying issues that can lead to drug addiction and by doing so it cuts to the heart of what a prevention program should be. Think of it this way, if a heart-disease prevention program only consisted of scaring people, by telling them about what fatty foods do to their body, we would think that program to be ineffective and insane. Yet that is essentially what we are offering our teens in this country by not relaying any real information to them about drug addiction. Preventure offers real information and it also seeks to help those teens find new means in which they can deal with their issues. By doing this it offers a viable and real solution to teenage substance abuse, and hopefully, in the near future, we will see its implementation spread throughout the world.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.