Middle school children who participated in PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER), a drug use prevention program in Iowa and Pennsylvania, were significantly less likely to engage in substance use after graduating high school, according to new research.
“Teens are vulnerable to substance use for many reasons,” explained Mark Feinberg, PROSPER’s Pennsylvania principal investigator. “In general, teens are oriented toward their peers and maintaining their social status in the tense shifting world of adolescent friendships. Many teens see substance use as a way to look cool and fit in. They are often attracted to novel and risky experiences for a number of reasons, but their brains, especially the part that helps regulate behavior to achieve long-term goals, are still developing.”
The program is a collaborative effort by Iowa State University and the Penn State Extension and was funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse to decrease dangerous youth behaviors, increase beneficial youth development, and build up families.
The researchers discovered a 41 percent decline in lifetime use of meth in over 1,900 19-year-olds that were randomly selected from a PROSPER group of more than 11,000 children who entered the program in sixth grade.
In comparison to control groups, PROSPER participants showed a decline in lifetime marijuana and cocaine use of more than 30 percent and a decline of 20 percent for prescription medicine misuse.
Feinberg believes programs like PROSPER are currently more important than ever because “we have had a series of drug epidemics for decades in our country — crack, meth, opioids and narcotics. The human wreckage [of] disease, death, poor parenting, inability to work productively [related to] cigarette, alcohol, and drug misuse are huge. And this drives up health care costs, crime and reduces government tax revenue and business productivity.”
He added that America’s approach in the past has been to stop drug smuggling from other countries and to stop illicit drug production within our borders, but it hasn’t worked.
“We have never been able to stop illicit drugs,” he said. “And tobacco and alcohol are legal so we cannot eliminate them.”
Feinberg also emphasized the need for more… (continue reading)