TIME reports on an initiative taken in British schools to find out to what extent personality can dictate effective alcohol abuse prevention and alcohol rehab. Before beginning the study, researchers named four at-risk behaviours including “being sensitive to anxiety, feeling hopeless, being impulsive and seeking thrills.” These, they decided, made a teen more likely to abuse alcohol in youth and later in life.
Looking at nearly three thousand teens in twenty-one secondary schools throughout England, researchers created and monitored the effects of programmes that target the at-risk behaviours they designated. They sought to provide students with tools to help them understand how they view the world, whether it is through more anxious or thrill-seeking lenses, and to avoid thoughts that lead to self-destructive behaviours and possible addiction and the need for alcohol addiction treatment
The author of the TIME article explains, “Rather than addressing alcohol or drug abuse directly, the teachers spoke more about the students’ reactions to life experiences and incorporated cognitive-behavioral principles of regulating behavior, for example, to help the anxious students to cope with stressful situations and to guide the impulsive students to think through their options before indulging in their first reaction.”
Presented as an alternative to programmes that bombard young people with the threat of the physical and social harms that alcohol abuse can cause, this study, led by Patricia Conrod of King’s College in London and the University of Montreal, emphasises the role of mental health in addiction, and of harnessing mental tools at a young age in order to hopefully combat alcohol addiction.
After completing these programmes, the at-risk teens’ likelihood of binge drinking had fallen by 43 percent.
“A mental-health approach to alcohol and drug prevention looks like it’s much more effective and promising than simple drug education or alcohol education,” Conrod told TIME.
The study’s findings speak to two ideas: that numerous social behaviours and how one handles them can lead to alcohol addiction, and that given the right tools, young people can learn how to manage risky behaviours and practice a form of pre-emptive alcohol addiction treatment before adulthood.