4 Traits Linked to Addiction in Teens

Before teenagers open the bathroom cabinet and pop open a medicine bottle that isn't theirs, is there a way to target at-risk teens and prevent addictive behavior?

Before teenagers open the bathroom cabinet and pop open a medicine bottle that isn’t theirs, is there a way to target at-risk teens and prevent addictive behavior?

A program called Preventure aims to do just that: to determine which traits make a teen more likely to abuse in order to intervene.

Preventure uses the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale to measure personality risk factors for substance abuse and other behavioral problems.

Researchers found that the following traits were linked to substance abuse measures and other behavioral and emotional problems:

1) Hopelessness

2) Anxiety sensitivity

3) Impulsivity

4) Sensation-seeking behavior

Researchers found that these scales could determine “a high number of those who developed problems.” So, teens who were identified at high risk by the scale were more likely to develop conduct or drug use problems within 18 months. The personality testing could help identify 90% of the most at-risk teens before they became addicted.

Preventure was developed by Patricia Conrod, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montréal. The program involves a few days of training for teachers on therapy techniques. Then, students take a personality test, and two workshops on how to control their personality to achieve success are offered.

Dr. Conrod told The New York Times that when these workshops are offered in schools, most students sign up, but only the students with troubling scores on the test are selected to attend the workshop. The workshop they attend is also targeted to their specific worrisome trait.

“There’s no labeling,” Dr. Conrod told The New York Times, and the students are not told why they were selected for the workshop, though they are told why if they ask.

In the workshops, students learn about cognitive behavioral tools for emotional and behavior problems.

In 4 countries, Preventure was shown to reduce binge drinking, frequent drug use, and alcohol-related problems, The New York Times reported. Other Preventure studies showed that depression, panic attacks, and impulsivity were reduced.

In another study, the Preventure program reduced drinking by 29% in students who didn’t even take the workshop, and drinking was reduced by 43% among those who did attend. Two explanations for that may be because peer pressure was reduced, and teachers may have employed successful tactics to at-risk teens and created more bonds with students.

The New York Times highlighted that almost all of the 4 traits are linked to mental health problems, which predispose one to addiction. Impulsiveness can be linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, “which increases illegal drug addiction risk by a factor of 3.” Hopelessness can be connected to depression, and anxiety can be linked to panic disorder. Meanwhile, sensation-seeking behavior already has a clear connection to experimentation with drugs.

Previous research has shown that scare tactics and education are not the most effective ways to prevent teen drug abuse. A study published in 2009 in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the D.A.R.E. program resulted in a “less than small overall effect” on drug use.

Instead of scare tactics and education, the Preventure program identifies students before addiction becomes a problem, employs cognitive behavioral techniques, and encourages bonds with teachers and at-risk students.

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