Our Center has fostered translational and synergistic interactions aimed at preventing drug use, primarily focusing on the transitional period from adolescence to young adulthood. Beyond the mere evaluation of intervention programs, however, our Center has also been involved in the construction of evidence-based interventions, most notably in the design of anti-drug televised public service announcements (PSAs). Although a recent meta-analysis indicated that a typical effect size for mass media health communication campaigns on behaviors such as drug use tends to be small, from a public health perspective, the wide dissemination of such campaigns translates into a relatively large number of individuals receiving a positive health benefit. For example, in one study associated with our Center, Palmgreen and colleagues (Palmgreen et al., 2001) designed and evaluated the efficacy of an anti-marijuana televised PSA campaign targeting high sensation seeking adolescents. To produce the PSAs, focus groups of high sensation seeker adolescents were convened to offer opinions about various advertisement storyboards and arguments about the risks of marijuana use. Based on these opinions, 5 different PSAs were produced professionally, each using teenage actors and incorporating features especially appealing to high sensation seekers, such as novelty, fast-paced edits, surprise endings, and strong emotional appeal. To test the efficacy of the PSAs, a study was conducted in two mid-sized U.S. cities (Knoxville TN and Lexington KY) using a 32-month controlled time series design in which a 4 month-long PSA campaign was implemented sequentially in each city. A time-series regression model revealed that marijuana use in the last 30 days measured in home interviews was significantly reduced in high sensation seekers by the PSA campaign. Although there was some wearing off of the effect after termination of the campaign, effects were evident for several months afterwards. Interestingly, no effects were observed for use of other drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, inhalants or cocaine, indicating that the targeted mass media campaign produced an effect specific to the anti-marijuana content of the message.
As a follow-up, Zimmerman and colleagues (Zimmerman et al., 2007) applied the lessons learned from the two-city anti-drug PSA work to risky sexual behavior. In that study, a safer sex mass media PSA campaign was targeted to individuals high in reward seeking and low in inhibition. A time-series regression analysis revealed that significant increases in condom use, self-efficacy and behavioral intentions to use condoms were obtained, thus demonstrating that targeted PSAs can be effective interventions for a variety of risky behaviors, including drug use and unprotected sex. These results highlight the importance of targeting PSAs to critical personality traits that confer individual risk.
In the most recent iteration of the Center, we are now expanding our translation of basic research findings to different facets of impulsivity, focusing on the facet of impulsivity (mood-based rash action). Previous literature has shown that negative mood states such as anger increase use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana among both male and female middle school students and that mindfulness training is effective in reducing drug use/abuse. As a Type I translational research prevention center, the Center will take the next critical step to determine if mindfulness training preferentially reduces drug use to a greater extent in high urgency subjects than in high sensation seeking subjects in a small-scale field trial.