Would you like to know if your child or grandchild is vulnerable to taking drugs? As a mother and granny, I know I would.
Well, a new drug programme has found that a child’s susceptibility to drug taking is high in certain personalities.
The programme, called Preventure, has been tested in Europe, Australia and Canada, and recognises how a child’s personality drives their risk for drug use.
Furthermore, different temperaments create different pathways to addiction.
Early trials show that personality testing can identify 90% of the highest risk children before they hit problems.
Now most teenagers who try alcohol, cocaine, opioids or methamphetamine don’t become addicted. But researchers are focusing on what’s different about the minority who do.
Importantly, most at-risk kids can be spotted early. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, increases the risk of illegal drug use by a factor of three.
Three of the four personality traits identified by Preventure are linked to mental health issues, a critical risk factor for addiction.
Impulsiveness, for instance, is common among people with ADHD, while hopelessness is often a precursor to depression.
Anxiety sensitivity, which means being overly aware of and frightened by feelings of anxiety, is linked to panic disorder. Sensation-seeking raises addiction risk for the obvious reason that people drawn to intense experiences will probably like taking drugs.
Preventure starts with intensive two or three-day training for teachers, who are given a crash course in therapy techniques proven to fight psychological problems. When the school year starts, children in years six, seven and eight take a personality test and then two 90-minute workshops are offered to the school with only a limited number of places.
Only those with extreme scores on the test – which has been shown to pick up 90% of those at risk – get to attend.
The workshops teach students cognitive behavioural techniques to address specific emotional and behavioural problems.
Preventure has been tested in eight trials in Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada, which found reductions in binge drinking, frequent drug use and alcohol-related problems.
Studies in 2009 and in 2013 also showed Preventure reduced symptoms of depression, panic attacks and impulsive behaviour. For kids with personality traits that put them at risk, learning how to manage them could avoid a tragedy – especially if there’s an adult on standby to help.