Athens City School District is preparing to pilot a program that aims to prevent substance abuse before it starts. 

The program, which is called Preventure, was developed by Patricia Conrod, a psychiatry professor at the University of Montreal. It is designed to combat substance abuse in adolescents before it develops. 

As part of the program, students take a survey that tracks four categories correlating with risks of future alcohol and drug abuse: impulsiveness, sensation-seeking, anxiety sensitivity and negative thinking. It asks students 23 survey questions related to those traits. Questions include their willingness to skydive and how they view their self-worth.

Students who are identified as having one or more of those traits are offered the opportunity to attend two 90-minute workshops. The workshops teach skills such as goal setting and good decision making.  

The program is designed to compliment Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., rather than replace it. 

Preventure intends to be a proactive approach to combating substance abuse and addiction, Athens County prosecuting attorney Keller J. Blackburn said.

“D.A.R.E. works for about one of every eight (students), while (Preventure) is effective in about one of every four or one of every two students,” Blackburn said. 

Preventure has already proven itself elsewhere. 

According to a New York Times article, the program has reduced the number of young people binge drinking, using drugs frequently and experiencing other alcohol-related issues in studies conducted in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. 

Preventure is also being used in Bay Village School District outside of Cleveland, which is an area that suffers from the effects of opioid addiction, Bay Village School District director of communications Karen Derby said. 

“(The program) sounds like it just really helps kids think about their future and what kinds of behaviors that could keep them from reaching their goals … think about your future, think about the things you want to do,” Derby said.

Blackburn has set aside about $20,000 from his office’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund to fund the creation of the Preventure program. That fund is made up of seized assets from convicted drug dealers.

“I think it is wonderful how community partners are working together for the betterment of our students,” Kim Goldsberry, Athens City School District board member, said. “It’s a win for our students.”

Blackburn is working closely with Athens City School District to implement Preventure at Athens Middle School.

“We don’t have an opioid problem,“ Blackburn said. “We have an addiction problem.”

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