Substance abuse prevention among homeless youth

Aida Rahmattalabi, Anamika Barman Adhikari, Phebe Vayanos, Milind Tambe, Eric Rice, and Robin Baker. 2019. “Social Network Based Substance Abuse Prevention via Network Modification (A Preliminary Study).” In Strategic Reasoning for Societal Challenges (SRSC) Workshop at International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS-19).Abstract
Substance use and abuse is a significant public health problem in the
United States. Group-based intervention programs offer a promising
means of preventing and reducing substance abuse. While effective,
unfortunately, inappropriate intervention groups can result in an
increase in deviant behaviors among participants, a process known
as deviancy training. This paper investigates the problem of optimizing the social influence related to the deviant behavior via careful
construction of the intervention groups. We propose a Mixed Integer Optimization formulation that decides on the intervention
groups to be formed, captures the impact of the intervention groups
on the structure of the social network, and models the impact of
these changes on behavior propagation. In addition, we propose
a scalable hybrid meta-heuristic algorithm that combines Mixed
Integer Programming and Large Neighborhood Search to find nearoptimal network partitions. Our algorithm is packaged in the form
of GUIDE, an AI-based decision aid that recommends intervention groups. Being the first quantitative decision aid of this kind,
GUIDE is able to assist practitioners, in particular social workers, in
three key areas: (a) GUIDE proposes near-optimal solutions that are
shown, via extensive simulations, to significantly improve over the
traditional qualitative practices for forming intervention groups;
(b) GUIDE is able to identify circumstances when an intervention
will lead to deviancy training, thus saving time, money, and effort;
(c) GUIDE can evaluate current strategies of group formation and
discard strategies that will lead to deviancy training. In developing
GUIDE, we are primarily interested in substance use interventions
among homeless youth as a high risk and vulnerable population.
GUIDE is developed in collaboration with Urban Peak, a homelessyouth serving organization in Denver, CO, and is under preparation
for deployment.