When drug use by children began to soar decades ago, nations embarked on education campaigns in schools to discourage the young taking to drugs. It seemed the obvious solution. Warned of the dangers surely the child would not even start to use drugs. Rarely has an intuitively appealing approach proved so wrong so soon (see “Managing Addiction” in Chap.4 of “Welcome to the Loony Bin“). Whenever has telling the child to stay out of the cookie jar had any different effect? Shifting the focus to the child needing guidance does not occur to the mind occupied with thoughts of cookie harm. Nor does it offer a means as convenient for government as the captive audience of an existing school system.
Thirty years ago the Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study randomly allocated a group of disruptive kindergarten boys to control or “preventive intervention”, which ran for two years (Castellanos-Ryan N et al: Brit J Psychiat 203:188-195, 2013). The boys were were taught social and problem-solving skills. The parents were trained in child-rearing. The teachers were not convinced. Half refused to participate. Eight years later the boys given the “preventive intervention” not only had reduced impulsivity, antisocial behaviour and affiliation with deviant peers, but used less drugs. Addressing the psyche not only helps the individual, but saves society much greater cost later on.