Successful interventions lead to reductions in teenage drinking
The two-year outcomes of a randomised trial conducted in London secondary schools showed that interventions that teach youth how to manage their personality are associated with long-term reductions in problem drinking symptoms.
Dr Patricia Conrod and her research team at the Institute of Psychiatry, (IoP) at King’s College London recently published the results of a randomised control trial with adolescents (mean age 14) in 13 secondary schools across London. Three hundred and sixty-four students with elevated scores on one of four personality profiles linked to risky drinking behavior (Hopelessness, Anxiety-Sensitivity, Impulsivity, and Sensation-Seeking) were randomly assigned to a control no-intervention condition or a two-session group coping skills intervention targeting their personality profile. The effects of the intervention on quantity and frequency of alcohol use, frequency of binge drinking, problem drinking and risky drinking motives were examined at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months post intervention.
The interventions were cognitive-behavioural workshops designed to help youth with personality elevations to learn healthy strategies for managing their personality profile.
Dr Conrod, a Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer at the IoP, said: ‘What is particularly exciting about these findings is that the main focus of the intervention was on personality management, and there was very little discussion of alcohol use.’
‘Relative to the control group, adolescents who received the personality-focused interventions significantly reduced drinking and binge drinking levels at six-month post-intervention and reduced problem drinking symptoms for the full 24 month follow-up period. This study also provided some evidence in favour of the need to match interventions to personality.’
Findings showed that the anxiety-sensitive group that received intervention reported using alcohol less frequently for anxiety management compared to high anxiety sensitive youth in the control group. There was also evidence that interventions targeting sensation-seeking were particularly effective reducing enhancement motives for binge drinking.
This study represents the third independent trial showing that personality-targeted interventions reduce drinking behavior in adolescents in the short-term. Novel findings were that the interventions were shown to produce long-term effects on drinking problems and personality-specific effects on drinking motives.
Considering the high cost of alcohol misuse to British society, estimated at £20 billion annually, this brief school-based intervention could potentially lead to billions of pounds in savings to the NHS and society by preventing the early development of risky and problematic drinking patterns in British youth.
‘Long-term effects of a personality-targeted intervention to reduce alcohol use in adolescents’ is available online in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.