Cover Story

Clinical researcher Sandra Brown, PhD, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is trying a novel school-based intervention with teens who drink alcohol, called "Project Options." Her work is part of a major national research effort aimed at curtailing teen-age substance abuse funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Teens who opted to take part in the program chose from three different interventions:

  • A Web site that provides them with information on how students can change their behavior.

  • An informal informational group session focusing on general issues of concern to teens, with alcohol use framed as one way of coping.

  • An individual version of the group intervention.

In the first semester of the program, students reported less alcohol use. The study is also finding that young people's treatment preferences vary by age, gender and ethnic background, highlighting the importance of tailoring treatments, Brown says. It's critical for psychologists to find what works for this age group, she adds.

"Adolescents face so many challenges related to rapid maturation that it's just a taxing time in general," she says. "To develop alcohol or drug dependence during that time creates tremendous additional hurdles to overcome during an already difficult period."