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New Substance Use Prevention Program Being Developed

The University of Rhode Island's Cancer Prevention Research Center will bring tailored programs to younger children to prevent them from substance abuse . The outcome is based on decades of research and success in helping to change smoking and other high-risk behaviors of teenagers and adults.

The University received a $3.5 million, 5-year grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to support its innovative research for the prevention of substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors. Led by URI Psychology Professor Wayne Velicer, one of the developers of the Transtheoretical (stages of change) Model, the research will for the first time focus on prevention of health-risk behaviors among children in grades 6-8.

National studies have shown that the use of substances like tobacco and alcohol develops relatively rapidly during early adolescence. More than one million Americans start smoking each year - and more than half of those who start are under the age of 14.

Based on these sobering facts, Velicer and his team have built a new program focusing on substance use prevention with younger participants. The research will use computer-based expert systems to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies that will reinforce children's healthy behaviors and evaluate the processes that may influence children to adopt certain high-risk behaviors.

"I'm very excited about developing new ways to prevent these unhealthy behaviors from starting," said Velicer, who co-directs the Cancer Prevention Research Center with Psychology Professor James Prochaska. "These programs represent a very new approach. We are employing the latest in computer information technology combined with the knowledge that we have been able to gain from fifteen years of research. We have been able to follow two large samples of adolescents who were substance use-free for three years to see what might predict increased risk behaviors. The
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