The Preventure Programme uses a new approach to target vulnerable young people at risk of co-occurring substance use and other emotional or behavioural disorders. It is a prevention programme which aims to reduce risk taking behaviour by targeting anxiety sensitivity, sensation seeking, negative thinking and impulsivity which are known risk factors for early onset substance misuse. The programme uses psycho-educational manuals within interactive group sessions with students aged 13-16 years. The group sessions focus on motivational factors for risky behaviours and provide students with coping skills to aid their decision making in situations involving, anxiety and depression, thrill seeking, aggressive and risky behaviour (e.g. theft, vandalism and bullying), drugs and alcohol misuse.
The Preventure Programme is a school-based programme which was piloted by the Principal Investigator, Dr Patricia Conrod, in Canada and then developed at the National Addiction Centre to be developmentally and culturally appropriate for UK youth. Preventure began in January 2004 and is currently being conducted in 25 mainstream schools in London boroughs. Students identified as at elevated risk of engaging in risky behaviours including alcohol or drug misuse are given a two session intervention workshop and followed up every 6 months for 2 years. Although designed to prevent substance misuse, analyses have shown that the interventions concurrently reduce or prevent common emotional and behavioural problems in adolescents.
Findings at 6 month follow up
2696 students participated in the initial survey and 423 students were identified as high risk. The results were excellent, with those participating in the intervention sessions showing:
- Significantly reduced binge drinking rates in students who are drinkers. For every 2 students who participated in the sensation seeking session, 1 case of binge drinking was prevented.
- Significantly reduced shoplifting rates which was most pronounced for those who participated in the Impulsivity intervention.
- Significantly reduced truancy rates in students who participated in the Anxiety Sensitivity intervention.
- Reduced quantity and frequency of drinking in comparison to the control group which increased over time. Again, this was more pronounced for students who participated in the sensation seeking intervention.
- Reduced reckless behaviour scores relative to those in the control group. This intervention effect was more pronounced in those with a sensation seeking or impulsive personality.
- Reduced depression scores in students who participated in the Negative Thinking intervention in comparison to the control group.
- Reduced panic attack rates in those who participated in the intervention. This was most significant in students who participated in the anxiety sensitivity intervention.
The Preventure programme is designed to target adolescents at high risk of co-occurring substance and emotional or behavioural disorders. Certain groups of adolescents are at an elevated risk of substance misuse. For example truancy is a risk factor for substance abuse as is having a parent who misuses alcohol. The Preventure Programme is currently being implemented with students in Pupil Referral Units and with children of parents who are being treated for alcohol misuse. The latter groups are 4-9 times at greater risk of developing alcoholism as a result of their family history.
“I have learned that I don’t have to go with whatever I first think of and that I should try to do more stuff to help me with what I want to do when I am older”
“Doing the exercises on the long and short term consequences of my behaviour was helpful”
“Reading what happens to other people and what they should do has helped me”
“I have learned a lot of stuff about my behaviour in these 2 weeks. The therapists have shown me how to react towards people and to consider my actions and thoughts before I do anything”
Castellanos, N. C., & Conrod, P. J. (in press). The Efficacy Of Targeted Brief Coping Skills Interventions For Emotional And Behavioral Symptoms In Adolescence. Journal of Mental Health.
Conrod, P.J., & Castellanos, N. (in preparation). Prevention of youth binge drinking with cognitive-behavioural interventions targeting personality risk for alcohol misuse. Submitted manuscript.
Conrod, P.J., Stewart, S.H., Comeau, N., & Maclean, A.M. (in press) Preventative Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Strategies Matched to the Motivational Bases of Alcohol Misuse in At-Risk Youth. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
Conrod, P.J., Pihl, R.O., Stewart, S.H., & Dongier, M. (2000). Validation of a system of classifying female substance abusers on the basis of personality and motivational risk factors for substance abuse. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors,14,(3),243-256.
Conrod, P.J., Stewart, S.H., Pilh, R.O., Côté, S. Fontaine, V., & Dogier, M. (2000). Efficacy of brief coping skills interventions that match different personality profiles of female substance abusers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14(3), 231-242.
Stewart, S.H., Conrod, P.J., Marlatt, G.M., Comeau, M.N., Thush, C., Krank, M. (2005) New developments in prevention and early intervention for alcohol abuse in youth. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 29(2), 278-286.