New approach to drug prevention in Vernon schools targets personality traits
It’s no secret B.C. is in the throes of a drug overdose crisis. It’s yet another reason why educators want to prevent kids from starting to use drugs.
The Vernon School District is trying a new approach to drug and alcohol prevention. It’s launching a program called Preventure that has been shown to work elsewhere. The program doesn’t preach “just say no” or even talk about drugs and alcohol. Instead kids learn to deal will personality traits that could put them at higher risk of drug or alcohol abuse.
“It was created to help kids who have certain personality traits which may lead to problems in the future around drug and alcohol,” said Doug Rogers, the district substance abuse prevention counsellor for the Vernon School District.
Grade eight students in the Vernon School District will soon be taking a questionnaire as part of the Preventure program. The questionnaire asks them how much they agree with statements like “I feel like I’m a failure” and “It scares me when I’m unable to focus on a task.” It’s designed to help determine which students are at higher risk of using or abusing drugs and alcohol.
“The tool screens for four personality factors that research has shown are specifically relevant to the initiation of substance use in youth,” explained UBCO psychology professor, Dr. Marvin Krank.
The four traits the questionnaire is designed to identify are sensation seeking, anxiety sensitivity, impulsivity and negative thinking.
“People who are sensation seeking say things like ‘I enjoy new and exciting experiences even if they are unusual.’ Well you can see there is already a propensity to experiment and because they are more likely to experiment, they are more likely to something like alcohol,” explained Krank.
Kids who fall into one of those groups will be offered two workshops. The workshops don’t directly discuss drugs and alcohol, but instead teach students to deal with their personality traits in a positive way.
“In those lessons they learn ways to deal with those traits. The research has shown that we see significant reductions in drug and alcohol use, delayed onset for even starting those things and better quality of life,” said Rogers.
Krank recommended the program to the Vernon School District. He hopes it will lead to a reduction in the number of students trying drugs or alcohol at an early age.
“The program doesn’t tell them what to do, it gives them skills to interact with their environment in a more positive way,” said Krank.
“That prevents one of the biggest problems which is that kids resist being told what to do.”
Krank expects the program to befit the school community as a whole, not just the kids who identify with one of the personality traits the programs target.
“It seems to impact not only the kids who participate in the sessions but it also impacts the rest of the kids in the school,” he said. “If your friends aren’t using you’re not very likely to use.”
The program is expected to roll out in all Vernon district high schools this school year and Krank will be following up to see how well it’s worked.
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