September 15, 2006

Programs for Rural Teens Can Reduce Future Methamphetamine Abuse

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New research shows that prevention programs conducted in middle school can reduce methamphetamine abuse among rural adolescents years later. Because methamphetamine addiction leads to social problems and a wide range of medical conditions, research into early interventions is critical to protecting the nation's youth.

A research team at Iowa State University led by Dr. Richard L. Spoth assessed the effects of two studies of methamphetamine abuse among middle and high school students. Their work was funded by NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse and two other NIH institutes.

In the first study, 667 families of rural Iowa 6th-graders were randomly assigned to participate in one of two family-focused interventions, the Iowa Strengthening Families Project (ISFP) or Preparing for the Drug Free Years (PDFY) program, or to act as controls. ISFP tries to strengthen family protective factors. PDFY is designed to enhance parent-child interactions to reduce a child's risk of early substance abuse. A total of 457 families participated in the 12th-grade follow-up.

In the second study, 679 families of rural Iowa 7th-graders were randomly recruited for the Life Skills Training (LST) program (a school-based intervention), the LST combined with a revised ISFP (SPF 10-14 + LST) or a control group. LST is designed to foster general life skills and teach students tactics for resisting pressure to use drugs. A total of 588 families participated in the 11th-grade follow-up and 597 participated in the 12th-grade follow-up.

The results were published in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In the first study, none of the ISFP 12th-graders had abused methamphetamine within the past year, compared to 3.6% of the PDFY 12th-graders and 3.2% of the controls. At the second study's 11th grade follow-up, only half a percent of the combined SFP 10-14 + LST intervention group had abused methamphetamine during the past year, compared with 2.5% for LST-alone and 4.2% of the controls. At the 12th-grade follow-up, lifetime abuse of the drug was significantly lower in both the SFP 10-14 + LST and the LST-alone groups (2.4-2.6%) than in the control group (7.6%).

"While some of these results are very promising," Dr. Spoth cautioned, "further research needs to be done to investigate the applicability of these particular programs to nonrural populations, rural populations in other parts of the country and populations with different ethnic compositions."

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