School-Based Intervention can Help Prevent Teen Substance Abuse

Research shows that over the last 10 years, underage drinking has doubled in the United Kingdom. Researchers at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry conducted a study that suggests that a personality-based intervention held by teachers can help prevent substance abuse among adolescents.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and led by Dr. Patricia Conrod, looked at 2,506 adolescents with a mean age of about 14, and asked questions that assess risks for substance abuse with regards to impulsive behavior, sensitivity to anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and sensation seeking. Of the students, 1, 159 were identified as being at high risk for substance abuse. Of these students, 624 went through an intervention, and 384 did not receive an intervention.

The interventions were two 90-minute group sessions that were held by education professionals who underwent a rigorous 3-day workshop and supervision. Although the interventions, called the Adventure Trial, are designed to analyze mental health symptoms, academic achievement, and substance abuse over a two-year period, the authors focused on six-month outcomes of binge drinking and alcohol-related problems.

Study author and trial coordinator Maeve O’Leary-Barrett said that the interventions significantly decreased the risk of drinking alcohol after six months. Those who didn’t receive the interventions were 1.7 times more likely to drink alcohol than those who received the intervention.

Those who received the interventions also reported lower binge-drinking rates among those who initially reported alcohol use. Compared with those who didn’t receive the interventions, participants were 55% less likely to binge drink after six months. Those who were at high risk for substance abuse reported less alcohol use and fewer alcohol-related problems compared to those who didn’t receive interventions.

The authors conclude that their study suggests that school-based interventions may help youth who are at risk for substance abuse. This study is the first to look at the efficiency of personality-targeted interventions delivered by teachers.

Source: Science Daily, School-Based Intervention Successfully Lowers Drinking Rates in at Risk Children, August 30, 2010