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Practice (Birm). 2011;23(4):235-252. Epub 2011 Jul 26.

Dissonance-Based Interventions for Substance Using Alternative High-School Youth.

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  • 1University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.


This article describes an innovative new intervention tailored to older youth who are already abusing drugs, but who are not diagnostically ready for treatment. The basic tenet of this intervention is to utilize adolescents engaged in drug use as "experts" in the prevention curriculum adaptation activity. This activity then serves as a mechanism for their dissonance-based change. This process is designed to intervene with drug abusing youth prior to their development of substance dependence. The community-based design grew from a United States federally funded NIDA project (National Institute of Drug Abuse Mentored Research Scientist Award) which found that the youth who conduct program adaptations were effectively engaged, animatedly discussing the payoffs and downsides of drug and alcohol abuse. It is maintained through this research that dissonance between their role of "Preventionist" and their own substance abuse behaviors lead to shifts in attitudes and behaviors. Dissonance-based interventions (DBIs) have been successfully utilized for positive behavioral change with a variety of disorders, but have not yet been implemented with substance abusing youth. Findings of pilot research are shared along with implications for future research and interventions.

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