Neurocognitive and physiological prerequisites for prevention of adolescent drug abuse
A number of programs for adolescent substance abuse are reportedly effective for a significant number of subjects; however, there is invariably a substantial subgroup that does not respond favorably. It is critical that underlying mechanisms for these differential effects are identified in order to improve prevention efficacy. Integrity of executive cognitive function (ECF) and its modulation of emotional arousal levels may represent key dimensions of regulatory processes related to risk for substance abuse, and may play a principal role in differential responses to prevention programming. Deficits in ECF and skin conductance responses (SCRs) have been associated with several behavioral disorders, most notably substance abuse, aggression, psychopathy, conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Differences in these neurocognitive-emotive processes may also contribute to differential responses to preventive interventions. ECF and physiological responses to cognitive processing (SCRs) implicated in substance abuse were measured in a small pilot study reported herein. Responses of extreme groups of high risk youth who responded favorably and unfavorably to an effective prevention program differed in cognitive and emotional measures, suggesting that they may play a role in variation in intervention outcomes. Further investigation will provide valuable insights for developing preventive interventions.