a new antidrug program tested in Europe, Australia and Canada is showing promise. Called Preventure, the program, developed by Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, recognizes how a child’s temperament drives his or her risk for drug use — and that different traits create different pathways to addiction. Early trials show that personality testing can identify 90 percent of the highest risk children, targeting risky traits before they cause problems.
Recognizing that most teenagers who try alcohol, cocaine, opioids or methamphetamine do not become addicted, they focus on what’s different about the minority who do.
The traits that put kids at the highest risk for addiction aren’t all what you might expect. In my case, I seemed an unlikely candidate for addiction. I excelled academically, behaved well in class and participated in numerous extracurricular activities.
Inside, though, I was suffering from loneliness, anxiety and sensory overload. The same traits that made me “gifted” in academics left me clueless with people.
That’s why, when my health teacher said that peer pressure could push you to take drugs, what I heard instead was: “Drugs will make you cool.” As someone who felt like an outcast, this made psychoactive substances catnip.
Preventure’s personality testing programs go deeper.
They focus on four risky traits: sensation-seeking, impulsiveness, anxiety sensitivity and hopelessness.
…My difficulty regulating emotions and oversensitivity attracted bullies. Then, isolation led to despair.
A child who begins using drugs out of a sense of hopelessness — like me, for instance — has a quite different goal than one who seeks thrills.
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 A.D.H.D., while hopelessness is often a precursor to depression. Anxiety sensitivity, which means being overly aware and frightened of physical signs of anxiety, is linked to panic disorder.
While sensation-seeking is not connected to other diagnoses, it raises addiction risk for the obvious reason that people drawn to intense experience will probably like drugs.
…The workshops teach students cognitive behavioral techniques to address specific emotional and behavioral problems and encourage them to use these tools.
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