Computer-Aided Drug Use Prevention

Substance abuse among teens might best be prevented with computer programs and dialogue

(RxWiki News) Teens have a tough time hearing warnings from parents and authority figures. Research shows computer education might be the best way to reach kids about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.

A new study tests the results of a computer-aided drug use prevention program. Results show that getting kids to pay attention to warnings might be easier through a computer.

"Check out computer-aided substance abuse prevention programs"

Sion Kim Harris, PhD, from the Department of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and The Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital in Boston, led a team to see how computers fit into teen substance abuse screening and counseling.

From 2005-2008, a total of 2,685 boys and girls aged 12-18 were recruited from 19 New England and Czech Republic healthcare facilities. The kids sat in front of a computer and answered questions for the initial set up, then received scientific information and true life stories about the dangers of substance abuse.

On the other end of the computer, the ‘providers’ were given talking points to communicate with the participants based on their results and engaged each teen in 2 to 3 minutes of brief advice.

At both 90 days and at one year, the kids were asked questions about their use of alcohol and marijuana, when they started using them and if or when they stopped.

Compared to kids in regular face-to-face treatment or drug-prevention discussions, the computer-advised patients from New England reported less alcohol use: 15.5 percent vs. 22.9 percent at the 90-day mark and 29.3 percent vs. 37.5 percent at the one-year mark.

From the Czech Republic, the computer-advised kids reported less marijuana use: 5.5 percent vs. 9.8 percent for the 90-day mark and 17 percent vs. 28.7 percent for the one-year mark.

The authors conclude that the use of computer-aided advice and adverse stories ‘appears promising for reducing substance use among adolescent primary care patients.”

This study was published in the journal Pediatrics, May 2012. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
May 15, 2012