Newswise — Youth show lower rates of substance misuse, including prescription opioid misuse, well after high school graduation if they have participated in prevention programs that follow the PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) model developed at Iowa State University. That’s according to researchers at ISU's Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute.

The PROSPER model study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, involved more than 1,900 19-year-olds who seven years earlier took part in programs provided by the PROSPER community-based delivery system. The researchers found reductions of youth substance misuse up to 41 percent relative to a control group, including relative reduction of prescription opioid misuse.

“The findings have significant implications for the future of our nation’s public health,” said Richard Spoth, PROSPER’s principal investigator and director of PPSI. “If implemented broadly across communities, the PROSPER delivery system model has the potential to reduce substance misuse over the long term and benefit many.”

PROSPER’s community-based preventive intervention delivery system is offered during a pivotal developmental period to young adolescents between ages 11 to 13. This is when exposure to and an uptake of controlled substances and other risky behavior often begins, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Throughout the delivery of the intervention, community teams of Human Sciences Extension and Outreach staff and school representatives guide the application of family-focused and school-based prevention programs year after year. PPSI scientists work with extension-based prevention coordinators to provide support for the community teams.

“We already knew that programs delivered through the PROSPER model help reduce substance misuse and student conduct problems during middle and high school, but now we see its impact extending beyond high school into early adulthood,” Spoth said. “This is important news, given that the prevalence of illicit drug use is highest among young people between the ages of 19 and 22.”

National impact

PROSPER is a centerpiece PPSI project cited in a 2017 national translation science award received by Spoth from the Society for Prevention Research. PROSPER also was featured this summer in a congressional briefing on community-based primary prevention, for which Spoth was a panelist.

The same general recommendations on primary prevention were also included in a letter to the national President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis from the American Psychological Association. Spoth has provided research-based information and recommendations to the association for many years.

Journal Link: Psychological Medicine