Stopping the Path to Drugs and Alcohol

Disruptive young boys less likely to use drugs and alcohol after program teaching skills

(RxWiki News) It's often possible to detect future problems among children who are disruptive in school. Even kindergartners who act up might be at greater risk for problems later — unless someone steps in.

A recent study found that disruptive kindergartner boys who received problem solving and social skills training were less likely to use drugs and alcohol up to ten years later.

Similar boys who did not participate in the skills training program had higher rates of drug and alcohol use.

The problem solving skills and social skills taught in the program are often available in community programs such as the Boys and Girls Club.

"Seek programs that teach kids problem-solving and social skills."

This study, led by Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal in Canada, aimed to find out whether substance abuse was less likely among disruptive boys who received an intervention early on.

The researchers followed 172 boys, aged 6, who had been labeled as disruptive while in kindergarten in Montreal.

They had been identified by kindergarten teachers who rated their level of disruptiveness. Their scores put them at risk for conduct disorder.

From the overall group, 46 of the boys were assigned to a two-year intervention program that taught social skills and problem-solving skills while the boys were aged 7 to 9.

These boys' parents also received training in effective parenting skills.

Another 42 boys were tracked as a comparison group. Another 84 of the boys were assigned to an intensive observation group for comparison.

These boys were visited every two years in their homes, were tested in a university lab and were observed at school.

All the boys were followed for approximately 10 to 17 years. In analyzing the boys' long-term outcomes, the researchers took into account their initial disruptiveness scores, their IQ at age 13 and their family's hardships when the children were 6.

The information on family hardships included the family's socioeconomic status, the parents' levels of education, the prestige of the parents' jobs and the parents' age when they had their first child.

The researchers found that the boys involved in the intervention program used less alcohol and tried fewer drugs during the ages 14 to 17.

The reduction appeared to be related to three factors that changed in the boys who received the intervention.

These boys showed decreased impulsivity and decreased anti-social behavior. They also had fewer friends who got into trouble while they were 11 to 13 years old than the boys in the other group.

"Adolescent substance use may be indirectly prevented by selectively targeting childhood risk factors that disrupt the developmental cascade of adolescent risk factors for substance use," the researchers wrote.

Therefore, it may be possible to reduce the risk that disruptive young children use drugs or alcohol later by involving them in community programs that teach problem-solving and social skills.

This study was published August 6 in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

The research was funded by the Quebec Ministry of Education, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National health Research and Development Program, the Quebec Foundation for Research on Society and Culture and the Quebec Foundation for Health Research.

Review Date: 
August 7, 2013