A New Approach to Preventing Continued Drug Abuse

Teen drug abuse has been a difficult problem to prevent for a while. Drug abuse in adolescence often results to a continued dependency in adulthood. New research from a long-term study done by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that programs geared towards improved impulse control are the best method to prevent teen substance abuse.

What Are the Risk factors?

This new study, which focused on the most commonly abused substances, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, finds that key risk factors, which predispose individuals to progressive drug use in their teens and, ultimately, dependence, include a combination of weak working memory and cognitive processing, both of which lead to poor impulse control. A weak working memory means that an individual does not have to ability to stay on one task without being easily distracted.

It’s Not Just Early Exposure

Researchers have found that experimenting with drugs at an early age was not a key factor in predicting continued substance abuse. It is the progression of the abuse along with the weakness in working memory that indicates the problem. Data like drug use patterns have never really been focused on before in research. Current drug prevention strategies do not include focuses on things like risk factors.

New Prevention Methods are Essential

Prevention methods now are geared towards the assumption that all adolescents have a strong working memory. Interventions need to be developed to strengthen working memory and cognitive processing related to inhibiting impulsive responses. It is essential for adolescents to understand their risks so that they can better navigate drug-related temptations. Otherwise, this weakness will continue to pose a risk for later substance abuse.

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