Jim Huger, founder and CEO of The PACT, says that the idea for the program came out of a desire to keep his own family out of the reach of drug abuse. The PACT is a web-based program, that provides parents with tools and an incentive program for their kids to stay off drugs. In an intro video on the website, Huger acknowledges the shift in influence from parents to peers as a child grows. The PACT is intended to provide kids and teens with a “tool against peer pressure”, rather than more traditional methods of encouraging them to “just say no”.
How exactly does it work?
The PACT is a membership-based tool, costing $19.99/year if auto-renewed, or $24.99/month. When parents sign up for The PACT, they receive a conversation guide, and sit down to make “The Pact” with their children- a pact to not do drugs. This is enforced by two random drug tests per year that arrive in the mail. Parents send a hair sample back with the drug test, and are instantly notified when their child’s results are in. Drug testing isn’t new, but paying your kids for negative drug tests is. When parents sign up, their child automatically receives $50 per year in reward money, that is paid out when their test results come back drug-free. What’s more, friends and family can contribute via what looks like a simple interface, to raise the incentive. There is also a savings component that can be utilized, so that parents and kids can set goals (such as graduation, or a new car), that teaches kids about both saving and delayed gratification- something teens aren’t predisposed to.
Why Would This Work?
The developing adolescent brain is predisposed to reward seeking. Studies have shown that adolescents are more risky, impulsive, and sensitive to any reward that activates the reward centers in the brain, than adults are. Given the choice, adolescents are more likely to select smaller immediate rewards versus larger long-term ones. Further, drug use in adolescence interferes with normal brain development, leaving teen users more vulnerable to problems with addiction later in life. The PACT cites evidence on their website that shows that drug use prior to age 15 leaves the user 65% more likely to develop an addiction compared to those who try drugs after 21. The PACT recommends starting in middle school, given that teens are being exposed to drugs earlier and earlier in life.
Could This Actually Keep Kids Off Drugs?
It’s an interesting approach, that’s for sure. Given the sensitivity of the adolescent brain to measures of reward, providing them with a financial reward for staying off drugs may seem like a fair trade. Testimonials on the site claim a high success rate, but certainly those should be taken with a grain of salt. The PACT does provide kids with a more solid rebuttal to peer pressure than generic “Just Say No” approaches. “I can’t, my parents test me” paired with the financial aspect of getting paid to stay off drugs certainly seems like it equips teens with a more solid (and inarguable) response. However, some might argue that this approach is over the top, and that direct and honest communication with your children would suffice.
Prevention is Key
Time will tell whether approaches such as this are effective at keeping kids away from substance abuse. However, it can’t be argued that the heroin crisis is creating younger and younger addicts, and that something needs to be changed in how we as a society approach addiction. If we want to turn the tide of this epidemic, prevention is going to be key- finding ways to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place, whether through education, communication, or incentive programs such as this- or even a combination of such. This program seems to be a sincere effort to do something different with kids, and provide them with not only the tools to say no in an effective manner, but to teach them lifelong lessons of saving, delayed gratification, and rewards for remaining true to their word.
If your child is addicted to drugs, or you think they may be, don’t wait until it’s too late. Call Serenity Acres today for a free confidential assessment. Our team is ready and waiting to answer any questions you might have.1-800-203-2024.