Past research has suggested that drug prevention and education programs that focus upon scare tactics and ‘just say no’ messages really do not work and have failed to curb substance misuse in high risk children and young people.

A program called Preventure focuses in on this area and has been developed with a new theory in mind. It has been trialed throughout Europe, Australia and Canada and is showing that it might just really be working!

The theory behind the program recognises how a child’s temperament drives his or her risk for substance use. It also acknowledges that different traits create different pathways to addiction.


Early trials show that personality disorders can identify 90% of the highest risk children, targeting risk traits before they cause problems.

Recognising that most teenagers who try alcohol, cocaine, opioids or methamphetamine┬ádo not become addicted, they focus on what’s different about the minority who do.

The identified traits that put children at the highest risk for addiction aren’t all what you might expect though.

For example, if a child excels academically, behaves well in class and participates in numerous extracurricular activities it doesn’t necessarily mean they are immune to addiction.

The focus is upon 4 main risky traits:

  1. Sensation-seeking
  2. Impulsiveness
  3. Anxiety sensitivity
  4. Hopelessness

Three of the four traits identified by Preventure are linked to mental health issues which are a critical risk factor for addiction.

  1. Impulsiveness is common among people with ADHD.
  2. Hopelessness is often a precursor to depression.
  3. Anxiety sensitivity can mean beings overly aware and frightened of physical signs of anxiety itself, which is linked to panic disorder.
A photo by Tomas Sobek.

Sensation-seeking is not connected to other diagnoses, but raises addiction risk for the obvious reason that people drawn to intense experiences will probably like drugs too.



The workshops were more likely to reduce symptoms of depression, panic attacks and impulsive behaviours.

The workshops delivered to the students on the Preventure program teach them cognitive behavioural techniques to address emotional and behavioural problems and encourage them to use these tools. The program has been trialed in 8 randomised locations in Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada and from these it was found reductions in binge drinking, frequent drug use and alcohol-related problems. The workshops were more likely to reduce symptoms of depression, panic attacks and impulsive behaviours.

Choosing a Pathway

For those children with the personality traits which have been identified as risky ones, learning how to manage traits that make us different and often difficult could change a path that can lead to tragedy.


Original article can be found here.

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