Welcome to the new-look Prevention Update. Following reader feedback we are featuring fewer articles in fortnightly emails. We are also including a handy What's On guide to upcoming events in the right sidebar.
As always please reply with feedback and suggestions for future articles to update [at] mentorfoundation [dot] org.
Mentor International was invited to attend an international technical consultation at the United Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna to consider International Standards on Drug Use Prevention. The meeting involved over 50 people from around the world, predominantly researchers and government representatives, with Mentor as the only international NGO. A range of world experts in drug prevention reflected on the issues of quality standards and effective practice. A number of practical, effective programmes were discussed together with a report on the new European Quality Standards for Prevention and similar developments in Canada and South America.
We have previously discussed the success of motivational interviewing and this recent meta analysis concluded that the technique is the leading evidence-based approach for young people not in treatment, even if delivered briefly and by non-specialist staff. The authors do raise some qualifications, however, and Mike Ashton in 'Findings' raises others. For example, some results were not statistically significant and Mike raises doubts as to whether the motivational nature of the interventions was always the key active ingredient. The overall approach remains valuable, however, particularly using the skill of reflective listening, "to 'play back' to the client an elaborated version of their own comments".
Effectiveness of motivational interviewing interventions for adolescent substance use behavior change: A meta-analytic review. Abstract from Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
This study reinforces the particular strength of effective personal communication in prevention strategies. Two groups of regular smokers participated in a year long cessation programme, but only half were screened then shown pictures of plaque build up in their cartoid artery. The difference in quit rates was 24/9% and 22.1%, so using the worrying pictures made no significant difference.
Impact of Carotid Plaque Screening on Smoking Cessation and Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Archives of Internal Medicine
On Motivating Patients: A Picture, Even If Worth a Thousand Words, Is Not Enough. Archives of Internal Medicine
This paper for The Lancet from an international team of researchers aims to help and inform policy makers. The paper reviews relevant evidence and outlines the effects of many different types of intervention. Of particular interest is their assessment of prevention programmes. Whilst finding no evidence to support the effectiveness of didactic interventions such as the popular US 'DARE'programme, some family-based and classroom interventions did reduce substance misuse by developing behavioural and social skills. Three examples are the Strengthening Families Programme for 10–14 year olds and their parents, social or life skills training, and the Good Behaviour Game.
- Drug policy and the public good: evidence for effective interventions. The Lancet (Free access to full article available)
London 2012 is set to host one of the most rigorous drug testing regimes ever seen. Sadly, the inevitable discovery of substance use is likely to send mixed messages to young sport enthusiasts. Meanwhile, a UK study investigated athletes’ attitudes, beliefs and willingness to participate in performance enhancement in sport. Athletes were most willing to use a banned substance if performance dipped, funding was under threat, injury occurred before a major competition and if they believed other athletes were getting away with substance use. Coaches were also found to be highly influential. The study highlights the need for carefully targeted prevention programmes rather than over-reliance on drug testing.
Study reveals limitations of drug testing policy. Leeds Metropolitan University
Analysis of wastewater to establish patterns of drug taking has been on the European agenda for some years, with growing interest in North America. Some researchers believe that sewage epidemiology provides a cheaper, less intrusive, more immediate and more objective view of drug use than data from policing statistics, surveys and hospital records. Experts at the recent EMCDDA meeting in Lisbon reviewed research projects and explored potential new uses of the technique. Some broad trends eastablished in earlier studies include that cocaine use is more common at weekends and in cities, cannabis use is more consistent throughout the week and methamphetamine is popular in all areas.
Research from the George Washington University found that tobacco cessation programmes resulted in substantial reductions in Medicare costs. The average saving ratio found was $3.12 for every $1 spent on prevention. 'Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,' said Leighton Ku, Ph.D., professor of Health Policy at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services. 'Investments in comprehensive tobacco cessation services in Medicaid can improve the health of patients, as well as save money for states and the federal government.' The research was supported by Partnership For Prevention.
- George Washington Researchers Find that Smoking Cessation Benefit Can Save Money for Medicaid. GW University Press Release
The US non-profit Partnership at Drugfree.org has launched a strong public service campaign to encourage parents to intervene more actively in their child's potential substance abuse. One of the two 30-second TV ads shows a parent in denial. The other ad shows a parent trying too hard to be a 'buddy' to their child and the child's friends. The campaign includes a Facebook app.
Mentor has not undertaken a thorough review of the resources mentioned as to their ultimate value and worth, however we welcome reader and user feedback.