Substance Abuse and Treatment for Adolescents
In this paper I will discuss substance abuse among teens, causes, statistics, effects of substance abuse, current treatments, and the importance of developing appropriate treatment options for youth. Statistics Psychologist Gunter Swobota works with adolescent patients with drug and alcohol addictions. While they are able to obtain drugs, such as cocaine, with ease, Swobota feels the biggest problem among teenagers currently is alcohol abuse, which he says is reaching crisis proportions.
Swobota, whose research statistics are primarily out of Australia, says that up to 30% of the adolescent population binge drinks at some point, and nearly 75% of those cases have been potentially harmful. He also says this closely compares to adolescents in southern California (Jones, 2009). Interestingly, Swobota says most parents he interacts with are reluctant to admit their children have substance abuse problems. Instead, most refer to their childrens issues as behavioral problem. Most often, the first sign of problems arising are deteriorating grades in school, which prompt parents to seek help (Jones, 2009).
Jean Paul Wils, who works for a program for troubled teens in the Netherlands, says that most of the students he works with come from broken homes, and have lived in poverty for most of their lives. The program Wils works for deals primarily with immigrants. It is estimated that 30 – 40% of adolescent immigrants in the Netherlands have alcohol and drug problems. A group of 14-year-olds were interviewed, and over half admitted to drinking. Of those, 75% admitted to binge drinking. Similar stories and statistics of teen alcohol and drug abuse is found in all countries (Jones, 2009).
Recent estimates indicate that 53% of adolescents in the United States have experimented with an illicit drug by the time they graduated from high school. Of those, 32% experimented as early as eighth. It is believed that these estimates are extremely low, as they do not account for youth not attending school (Battjes, Gordon, and Kinlock, 2004). Adolescents living in the Northeast and in socioeconomically disadvantaged urban centers are at particularly high risk for marijuana and other illicit drug use (Adorno, Aguayo, Anderson, Black, Hodge, and Simmons, 2008). Causes
Studies have shown that victimization during childhood can be a precursor to substance abuse. Victimization can occur in countless ways, including actual or threatened harm, physical violence, psychological abuse, and neglect. Children are twice as likely as adults to be victimized. Younger children are also more likely to be victimized by older children. Studies have shown that drug and alcohol use may be a coping mechanism for children who have been victimized. It is also proven that adolescents who have experienced victimization have a harder time engaging in substance abuse treatment (Cho, Gotham, And Perron, 2008).
The instances of traumatic stress among adolescents in substance abuse treatment centers are high when compared to adolescents in the general community. When youth turn to illegal substances to cope with traumatic stress symptoms, it is a sign that the stress is out of control and needs to be addressed. Most practitioners are not adequately prepared to address traumatic stress. These issues need to be addressed during education or training of practitioners in order to fully treat substance abusers with traumatic stress, otherwise they are more likely to relapse (An, Hall, Smith, and Williams, 2008). Outcomes According to James A.
Hall and Douglas C. Smith, substance abuse among adolescents is an enormous societal problem that we need to develop high quality and cost-effective treatment options for. Substance abuse problems during adolescence poses many risks for the future. Adolescents who use are more likely to have addictions as adults. They are also more likely to face delays in normal adult roles, such as relationships, employment, and education (Hall and Smith, 2007). Substance abuse during adolescence is not only a concern because of the direct effects of the substances, but also because they are a predictor of many other problems.
It is associated with problems in school, criminal activity, bullying of other adolescents, cruelty to people and animals, and risky sexual activities. It is found that male adolescents are at a higher risk of criminal activity and cruelty to people (Battjes, Gordon, and Kinlock, 2004). Treatment There are many reasons why individuals, both children and adults, do not receive substance abuse treatment. The most commonly reported reason for not seeking treatment is a lack of a perceived need for treatment.
According to statistics from 2003 and 2004 surveys, 90. 6% of adolescents with a need for alcohol treatment and 87. % of those needing treatment for drug abuse did not perceive a need for treatment. There are several other commonly mentioned reasons for not seeking treatment as well, including financial barriers, embarrassment or fear about getting treatment, lack of knowledge, and access issues (Adorno, Aguayo, Anderson, Black, Hodge, and Simmons, 2008). Research shows that adolescents seem to be less motivated than adults are to seek or stay in treatment, and that what motivation they have more likely emanates from pressures exerted by external agents such as court officials or family members (Breda and Heflinger, 2004).
Female adolescents are reported to have a higher success rate for drug and alcohol treatment than males. For example, results of a study on 203 Native American teens undergoing mandated treatment show that 74. 5% of boys and 87. 1% of girls completed treatment. Of the teens involved in the study, many were referred after legal issues, including drug offenses and violent crimes. It is also reported that the success rate at this facility is higher than the national average, primarily because it has programs specifically tailored for the Native American community (London, 2009).
Strengths-Oriented Family Therapy (SOFT) is a treatment program that was developed by social workers. SOFT has an approach similar to many other family therapies and consists of four main activities. First, a family based assessment and motivational feedback. Next, therapist works with individual families through several stages. During the third activity, groups of families are placed together for therapy sessions. In the final stage, SOFT offers case management as needed (Hall and Smith, 2007).
Hall and Smith strongly support the SOFT model of treatment because there is such a large emphasis on the family, not just the individual seeking treatment. Statistics have shown that the quality of family relationships can predict adolescent drug use, so building a strong relationship between parent and child is extremely important. They also believe that the focus on positive language, like identifying strengths, staying solution focused, and striving for motivation, plays a major and effective role in treatment, by building the clients self-image and self-esteem (Hall and Smith, 2007).
There are many publications dedicated to resources for substance abuse treatment, that include locations, services offered at each, and additional information about the facilities and staff. www. drugstrategies. org is an excellent resource with information for each state, as well as an 800 number that people with substance abuse issues can call to reach trained staff members. Additional resources and information can be found on each states website as well (Internal Medicine News, 2003). Another family based adolescent substance abuse treatment option is the Hartford Youth Project (HYP), based out of Connecticut.
One of the most important aspects of HYP is the emphasis on outreach, which involves schools, child welfare, community agencies, families, treatment providers, and others. Outreach workers have proven to be effective in the treatment process by helping substance abusers access treatment and support services, gain skills, reinforcing behavioral change, and education (Adorno, Aguayo, Anderson, Black, Hodge, and Simmons, 2008). HYP’s goal is to reach youth in the community before they became involved with the criminal justice system, in hopes that this would also prevent substance abuse issues.
The program was designed to quickly and continuously link families in need to supportive services as part of the intervention process. These supportive services include housing assistance, medical and mental health care, financial support, legal services, vocational training and educational support, transportation, and childcare. These services are considered as important to treatment success as the treatment services themselves, because they can lighten the burdens that lead people to substance abuse (Adorno, Aguayo, Anderson, Black, Hodge, and Simmons, 2008).
One of the biggest foals of HYP is to fostering family involvement and build stronger relationships. The belief is that the active involvement of family members in the assessment and treatment planning process facilitates positive treatment outcomes. To accomplish this, family members are constantly involved. Meetings are set up where the child and family are most comfortable. Family members are asked for input on best ways to engage the child. Activities for the family outside of treatment are also an important part of the program and can include sport events, parties, fairs, and camp visits.
All of this encourages the families involvement and reinforces the importance of their relationship with the child (Adorno, Aguayo, Anderson, Black, Hodge, and Simmons, 2008). Conclusion It is clear that drug use during adolescence is a serious problem that will likely affect the user for many years into their future. Without appropriate and effective treatment options they are more likely to struggle with addiction and many other problems as adults. It is important to come up with better treatment and prevention options before this problem spirals further out of control.