Is it just me or does everyone think we are trying to get better?
Australians have traditionally celebrated drinking culture. Most people love to tell stories of the first time they wrote themselves off, usually before they were 18. Most parents accept their children will drink heavily on occasion. We might not like it but we don’t fight it.
In a 2017 poll, forty-four per cent of Australians admitted they drink to get drunk.
This week on the Sunshine Coast, we’re trying something new. A two-day induction of our 13 school-based Health Nurses, training them in Preventure, a school-based intervention program aimed at reducing adolescent drug and alcohol use in high-risk teenagers.
The course will teach the nurses to recognise kids in year 7 and 8 who are pre-disposed to substance abuse.
It seems crazy but it makes sense.
The intervention looks for higher than average levels of impulsiveness, sensitivity to anxiety, sensation seeking and negative thinking. These four personality traits have been shown by researchers to predict future binge drinkers with 90 per cent accuracy.
In the first Australian trial, in Sydney, a program targeting 438 year 8 students with at least one of these traits successfully halved the early onset of drinking and the incidence of binge drinking for up to three years.
The intervention is incredibly gentle. Students are not told they are high risk unless they ask specifically. The treatment is essentially a regular chat, over three years. Importantly, the children identified as high risk are grouped together and attend two 90-minute workshops to participate in goal-setting exercises designed to enhance motivation, change behaviour and ultimately make better decisions.
I have had a look at the program and the incredible thing is it hardly mentions drugs or alcohol, yet it reduces the uptake of both while improving every young person’s mental health.
The scary fact is, the age kids start drinking is deeply significant.
Experts say people who go on to develop a substance-use disorder are well on the way by the end of school.
So, is your child high risk? Children with higher than average levels of these personality traits are 90 per cent more likely to develop alcohol and drug problems.
Parents will recognise impulsivity in children who act before thinking things through. Sensation seeking teenagers will say they want to skydive. Anxiety sensitivity kids get scared when they’re nervous or say their heart beats fast. Negative thinking is found in kids who say they’re no good at anything or see themselves as failures.
Funding of Preventure has come directly from this year’s Mix FM’s Give Me 5 For Kids Campaign, which raised more than half a million dollars for the health of local children.