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In this research paper I will be discussing how to identify high risk youth and the treatment for drug abuse. First I will cover which teenagers are likely to be at high risk for drug use and abuse. Second I will discuss some of the causes of drug abuse amongst our teenagers. Third I will discuss the symptoms of teenage drug use. Fourth I will discuss preventative measures with high risk teenagers. Last I will talk about the different types of treatment for teenagers who are abusing drugs.
There are teenagers throughout the world that are considered high risk for drug abuse. Some of the teenagers have been labeled as gang members, homeless, and throwaway teenagers. (Newcomb, 1995) Socioeconomic status may also be a variable with our high risk teenagers. The lower the economic status the higher the risk the teenager is to try drugs. According to a report in 2007 up to 50% of youth who used substances, had some sort of mental disorder such as anxiety or depression. (Leslie, 2008)
There are a few other risk factors that have to be taken into consideration. Family risk factors for teenagers is such a huge factor; family conflicts, poor parenting skills, lack of attention, severe parental discipline, and history of alcohol or drug abuse. (Newcomb, 1995) Other risk factors that are more individual would be history of physical or sexual abuse, learning problems, and difficulty with handling impulsive behavior. (Newcomb, 1995)
Some of the causes of this disorder (drug use and abuse) can be broken down into several areas of concerns. The first area would be cultural/ social environment. (Newcomb, 1995) This consists of the availability of substances for a teenager within their community. How extreme is the living conditions for the teenager; meaning is this teenager living in poverty. Teenagers who don’t have access to certain resources are at a higher risk. The community that the teenager resides in can be a cause of drug use. If that individual teenager is custom to seeing drug use, drug selling, or drug addicts this can be a cause of drug use as well. (Newcomb, 1995)
An interpersonal factor is another area that can be a cause of drug use for teenagers. Teenagers who live in a home where there are inconsistent family practices, family conflict, or poor parental supervision typically are at higher risk. (Newcomb, 1995) Where there is family conflict in the home such as arguing and fighting this can be a cause for a teenager to want to use drugs to escape the conflict. If a teenager is in a home were drugs are not frowned upon they could feel its o.k. and are comfortable with using. When a teenager is rejected among its peers this may a reason for a teenager to find new friends whom may be drug users and they will begin to experiment with drugs with these new friends because they feel accepted. (Newcomb, 1995)
Psycho behavioral is an area which deals more with a teenager who has always had problems academically. They have rebellious behavior toward adults such as teachers, school counselors, or administration. They probably started drug use at an early age; as early as eleven years old. They have always looked at drugs as a good thing. (Newcomb, 1995)
Lack of communication is a cause of drug use that many people, mainly parents don’t consider. When parents and community leaders don’t discuss drug use with teenagers this leads to many teenagers being ignorant about the effects of drug use. (Accornero, Crum, & Storr, 2007) Many teenagers who participate in high-level sports may feel the competition is a lot of pressure and this can cause drug use as well. (Accornero et al., 2007)
There are many symptoms and warning signs of drug use with teenagers. Many of the symptoms are noticeable and some are not. Some of the symptoms of an individual who may be smoking marijuana could be: reddened whites of the eyes, a larger appetite than normal, not motivated to do anything productive, always happy, or paranoid. (Leslie, 2008) Some teenagers may start out by using over the counter cold medications. Symptoms for cold medicine use would be: sleepiness, a rapid or slow heart rate. (Shiel, 2010)
Symptoms of a teenager using inhalants are: runny nose, confusion, moody, smell of gasoline, or the smell of paint. (Shiel, 2010) Teenagers who are using heroin, morphine, codeine, and other depressant drugs normally show signs of sleepiness, poor coordination, dizzy, or low inhibitions. (Shiel, 2010) Ecstasy is known as the “club drug” and is popular among teenagers. Warning signs that your teenager may be using this drug would be: feverish child who does not sweat, finding lollipops around the house or in their room, the teen may seem to love everyone or is always in an excessive happy mood. (Shiel, 2010)
General behavior changes among teenagers who are using drugs would be grades dropping all of a sudden, parent(s) receiving phone calls of child missing or skipping school regularly, and dropping out of regular school activities. (Leslie, 2010) Some teenagers physical appearance may change; such as their attire, loss of weight, and poor hygiene. A teenager who was once jovial, happy, and easy to get along with may become hostile or easily agitated. They may become more secretive such as coming in and going straight to their bedroom without speaking. Locking their bedroom door when they leave the house and simply some parents may feel their child just doesn’t seem like their normal selves. As you can see there are so many warning signs and symptoms of drug use.
Now that I have discussed the risk, causes, and symptoms; I will now discuss some preventative measures. Not very many preventative programs have been completed among teenagers who are emerging into adulthood. This would be teenagers from the ages of 16 to 19 of age. Some of the preventative programs out there for teenagers consist of helping teenagers change their drug use motivations, teach them new communications skills, how to have self-control, and job seeking skills. For 17 and 18 year olds these programs may work on showing them how to make good decisions, and how to obtain new environmental resources. (Pumpuang, Skara, & Sussman, 2006)
One preventative program that could be used within the schools would be providing resources to teenagers who normally wouldn’t have access to these. Some of these resources would be providing transportation to and from drug counseling services within their community. Providing job training for students who may be struggling academically and helping them find a trade or skill that they would enjoy would be motivation for them to avoid using drugs. Some of these teenagers have never been introduced to recreational activities by their parents; by providing them with these different recreational activities this will give them something to do besides hanging out and doing drugs. (Pumpuang et al., 2006) Also providing drug prevention classes within the middle and high schools would be an opportunity for teenagers to communicate and learn more about the consequences of drug use. Research has shown that school-based prevention programs have had long-term success especially with current teenage drug users. (Pumpuang et al., 2006)
Telephone drug prevention education is becoming more popular. Some researchers suggest using the telephone prevention in conjunction with the school-based programs. (Pumuang et al., 2006) Telephone education is a great tool for teenagers to use when trying to find out about social-environmental resources in their communities.
There is a group of social workers who are trying to start a social service telephone program (SSRTP) that youth can use to get information that will help them within their surrounding community. (Pumuang et al., 2006) This program will consist of four elements: Mastery, attachment, cue, and hope. This will be known as the MACH model; which will help with early intervention for teenagers who are transitioning into adulthood. (Pumuang et al., 2006) In the mastery stage individuals would be able to receive educational lessons that would help them to master a skill and feel a sense of autonomy. They would show them how to plan and receive assistance as they transition to live by themselves. In the attachment stage they would receive information on jobs, continuing education, how to use public transportation, and how to access free or low cost counseling services. These teenagers who are getting ready to live on their own will need these services so that they will have healthy development and a sense of knowing there is resources out there for them to be successful. (Pumuang et al., 2006) The third stage is the cue stage. This stage gives awareness to participants that there are programs that will direct them to learning more about the risk of drug use/abuse. The last stage is the hope stage; this stage gives teenagers a positive outlook on their current circumstance. This allows teenagers to have the knowledge to know that there are so many other options out their besides drugs. (Pumuang is et al., 2006)
There are many different types of preventative programs out there. One program that is popular in the Santa Barbara area is ADAP Teen coalition. This program is headed up by teenagers who work together to reduce the amount of underage teenagers who use drugs and drink alcohol. This program has been around for over six years. They consider themselves to be more about the community and using community resources. They look at how the environment effects teenagers’ decisions, they look at solutions on public policy when dealing with underage drug use, and they study how culture, social, and political factors play an important role. (2009)
There are also two programs that are headed up in Portland, OR. These preventative programs teach teen athletes other alternatives to steroids, sports supplements, alcohol, and other drugs. (Bradley, 2010) This program has won several achievement awards. This is the first program and the only program in the world that has effectively reduced the need of using drugs that promote athletic performance. This program provides mentors to teenage athletes throughout the high schools. (Bradley, 2010)
As we know with teenage drug use delinquent behavior comes along. Many teenagers who are using substances find themselves in trouble with the law. The juvenile system has become a haven for many of these teenagers who have numerous challenges with drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and lack of resources for other assistance. (Nissen, 2006) The juvenile system is trying to come up with new ways to effectively treat these juvenile delinquents. Many teenagers who need assistance rarely ever receive it, studies show less than 10% will receive proper assistance. (Nissen, 2006) Only 36% of the juvenile justice centers offer drug abuse treatment. Many teenagers who are in juvenile detention centers come from different walks of life; this makes it tough when trying to do assessment and matching. Many juvenile detention centers will use family involvement in treatment. They have found that this is the key to long-term success with these teenagers. They work with these families while the teenager is in custody and once they are released they help the family find the resources so they can receive proper treatment. (Nissen, 2006)
Many family practitioners do not test youth for drug use. There are many screening assessments out there that can be used with teenagers. One of these is called the HEADSS assessment; this is a mnemonic that forms the basis for a psychosocial assessment. (Leslie, 2008) GAPS is another assessment it stands for Guidelines for adolescent prevention services. CRAFT is an assessment tool that identifies substance use, which has been known to be successful with teenagers. (Leslie, 2008)
In the past there have not been very many successful treatment programs for teenagers. Many of these programs went for an abstinence-based approach; meaning don’t use alcohol or drugs period. (Leslie, 2008) Evidence has shown that these programs have not been successful. There is a rise of harm-reduction treatment programs that have been successful. This program accepts teenage drug and alcohol use but shows the long term effect of drug and alcohol use. These programs aim to reduce the risks that are related to drug abuse. (Leslie, 2008)
Treatment also depends on the types of drugs that the individual teenager is using. There are short-term substance abuse treatment programs specifically for teenagers. Many of the programs will last less than six months. There are residential therapy centers that are designed for teenagers to stay in a facility for three to six weeks. They will detox and hopefully overcome their addictions. After the residential program has ended the teenager will begin to do go to twelve step meetings. There is also medication therapy; these medications will help the teenager overcome their addictions. These medications will help with withdrawal symptoms and craving which normally cause teenagers to relapse. (Shiel, 2010) There are also long term substance abuse treatment programs. These programs will last more than six months; typically these programs are designed for teenagers who are using opiates, or have been addicted for a long time. Therapeutic communities are a residential drug abuse treatment. Typically a teenager will stay here for six to twelve months. (Shiel, 2010)
As we can see there are so many factors that go into drug abuse and high risk teenagers. There is still so much research and work to be done to effectively prevent and treat these teenagers. There have been strides in our juvenile detention centers with teenagers who have been court mandated. Many of these teenagers will receive he treatment that is needed, but what happens when the teenager is released back into their environment. More community involvement is needed when working with teenagers who lack the resources to get the counseling and treatment that is necessary for them to recover from drug abuse. Hopefully we will see more community involvement and more research done on treatment for teenage drug abuse.
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