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10-16 The huge gap between teenage drug abuse and treatment

The addictive potential of different drugs and the risk-taking tendencies of teenagers have given rise to a history of substance-related issues for many adolescents. Although research shows that rehabilitative programs and services are indeed effective, a troubling statistic is the small amount of teens that actually access or are given the care they require.

Starting with the 1996 article, “Comprehensive School-based Health Care: High School Students’ Use of Medical, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Services,” author Trina Menden Anglin, M.D., and her team from the University of Colorado outlined the state of substance-related treatment options for teens during that time. After reviewing a total of 3,818 school-based health center visits by students over the course of four years, the researchers found that only 8 percent of students visited a substance abuse counselor.

The study also detailed that student populations showed a higher prevalence of utilizing their available resources than the general population. However, according to the Monitoring the Future study conducted by the University of Michigan, approximately 50.8 percent of high school seniors reported using illicit drugs in 1996. Compared to the rate of sought out treatment, a large proportion of students underutilized substance-related services in the past.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) updated these treatment-based trends. Using accumulated data SAMHSA‘s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 7.5 percent of individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 in need of drug-related services were admitted into a publically funded substance abuse treatment program. In short, the gap between those in need of help and those who receive help is still very wide today.

Does treatment help?

Regardless if teens are getting treated for their drug or alcohol abuse problems, a critically important measure is determining if the treatment they receive is effective.

In the 1994 study, “Correlates of success following treatment for adolescent substance abuse,” Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D., and Mark G. Myers, Ph.D., of University of California, San Diego along with practicing professionals Mariam A. Mott, Ph.D., and Peter W. Vik, Ph.D., evaluated the lasting recovery and functionality of 142 teens for two years after receiving substance abuse treatment. Teens who practiced abstinence or less substance use after care generally displayed better functionality in multiple fields. Functional improvement varied across psychosocial domains, from academic and occupational involvement to emotional well-being.

In a similar observation in 2001 entitled, “Treatment outcomes for adolescent substance abuse at 4- and 7-month assessments,” Holly B. Waldron, Ph.D., and a group of fellow academics from the University of New Mexico assessed various forms of therapy and intervention on 114 adolescents who exhibited drug abusing behavior. During the initial four months after treatment, fewer days and minimal levels of use were found for family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and combined interventions. Between pretreatment and the seven months after care, the largest reductions of use were linked to family, combined and group interventions.

Although a great gap persists between adolescents who require substance-based treatment and the relatively small fraction who are treated, there is substantial evidence that these services can benefit growing minds long term. At Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego, our caring and attentive staff treats substance abuse in a comprehensive and innovative manner, uncovering any co-occurring conditions that could be fueling the flames. Call or visit us online to get sober and stay clean.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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