Adolescents and experimentation with drugs and alcohol is now a common reason for referral for therapeutic services. Most seem to admit that substance use is a form of self-medication for other presenting problems, such as anger and depression. Notably the number of AA and NA meetings for young people is low at best. The say no to drugs campaign has appeared to be replaced with the nationwide obesity concerns. The question in treatment is often where to start. As with self-injury one cannot expect an adolescent to stop abusing substances without finding healthier coping skills first.
Alcohol is noted to be the most widely used drug by adolescents. A majority of 12th graders who have participated in various research studies have admitted to have gotten drunk at least one time. It almost appears to most that present for treatment as no big deal to be drinking alcohol. Statements range from it helps me handle the emotions I am feeling to it helps calm me down when I am angry.
In an effort to stop this current trend, therapeutic groups for youth in the community can be offered to give adolescents a chance to learn about the effects of drugs, effects on decision making and life choices and well as how to deal with peer pressure. Using the SAMHSA prevention tips for teen’s handouts as one avenue, various drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and club drugs can be explored as to how they can effect those who try and become addicted to them. The Drug Prevention BINGO game can also be utilized as well to help open up conversation about how to prevent drug use.
The goal is to challenge the myths, share experiences and explore coping skills for stopping experimentation or helping stop someone from succumbing to peer pressure.
Rachel Collins, LPC is a clinical therapist working with children and adolescents in New Haven, Connecticut. Her specializations include eating disorders, self-injury and trauma related work. She has a history of writing articles, giving presentations and serving in leadership positions at the local, state, regional and national level.