Positive thinking helps teenagers stay off drugs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2011, 12:00am

The power of positive thinking is often praised, but in Hong Kong its effectiveness has been linked to much lower levels of drug and alcohol use among teenagers, a five-year study revealed last week.

The study, conducted by five local universities, tracked teenagers who had taken part in a secondary school programme called Project Paths - Positive Adolescent Training through Holistic Social programmes - which stressed positive aspects of their lives.

The findings, released last week, showed that students who did not take part in the programme were 47 per cent more likely to take drugs, on average, than those who did.

'According to the data collected in Form Three, the uses of ketamine and cannabis by students who had not joined Paths was twice and four times higher than the Paths students, respectively,' said Dr Shek Tan-lei of Polytechnic University, principal investigator on the team which also included researchers from City University, Baptist University, Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong.

Students in the programme were only half as likely to drink and smoke as those who did not, Shek said. The study will be published in The Scientific World Journal later this year.

The core elements of Project Paths include demonstrating the importance of making good friends, ways of tackling stress and keeping a positive attitude about the future. Up to 213,000 students have received Project Paths training at 280 local schools after the project received HK$750 million in funding from the Jockey Club.

The first group of students finished the programme in 2009, and researchers then kept track of some 6,000 students in 43 schools - some of whom participated in Project Paths and others who did not. The second group is due to finish next year.

One teacher said the programme required students to think in unconventional ways. 'Although marriage is a decade away for these students, I asked them to write a declaration for their spouse, to get them to express what values they uphold,' said Chan Yuk, a teacher at Ning Po College.