Trick or Treatment

Trick or Treatment
Posted by CN Staff on January 07, 2003 at 09:19:44 PT
By Maia Szalavitz
Source: Slate
America loves its quick fixes. Think your child might be on drugs? Test him. Think your child's school is full of addicts? Test them all. Institute a policy of zero tolerance: One strike and it's off to a drug treatment program. Get those rotten apples out and clean them up before they can poison the whole batch. Last year's Supreme Court decision in Board of Education v. Earls allowed for a massive expansion of drug testing in schools. And increases in drug testing increase the numbers of offenders. As a result, schools and juvenile courts are increasingly turning to both "zero tolerance" and "treatment, not punishment" as a remedy.
The number of teenagers in drug treatment as a result of court coercion and school diversion increased by nearly 50 percent between 1993 and 1998 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the number of teen admissions to treatment programs in general rose from 95,000 in 1993 to 135,000 in 1999. But what if drug "treatment" doesn't work for teens? What if, rather than decreasing drug use, teen treatment actually encourages it by labeling experimenting kids as lifelong addicts? What if it creates the worst sorts of peer groups by mixing kids with mild problems with serious drug users who are ready and willing to teach them to be junkies? What if suggestible kids respond poorly to the philosophies that have made Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous successful for many adults? Then we'd be using "treatment" to turn ordinary adolescents into problem drug abusers.That's precisely what we're doing. A 1998 study of nearly 150 teenagers treated in dozens of centers across the country found that there was 202 percent more crack abuse following treatment and a 13 percent increase in alcohol abuse. In other words, recent research suggests that parents and schools may be sending binge-drinking/social marijuana smokers off to treatment and getting back crackheads in their stead.Michael's case illustrates some of the dangers inherent in shipping youngsters off to treatment programs. An 18-year-old marijuana smoker and cocaine user I interviewed regarding drug treatment, Michael was recently sent by his parents for drug treatment at the respected Caron Foundation. But his $11,000 one-month treatment program degenerated into a fruitless debate when his counselor wanted him to admit that he was "powerless" over drugs. Michael, who didn't use daily, wouldn't accept that. What teenager would admit to being "powerless" over anything? Michael used again within four hours of leaving treatment.Michael's reaction may be the rule for teenagers, not the exception. For an adult who has lost his wife, his job, his health, and his home, admitting to a loss of control might help him recognize that quitting drugs is the only way to solve his problems. But a teenager may not be "in denial" when he says he can control his intake. Most teenagers can. Conversely, forcing a teen to assert that they have no control may do more harm than good, if they have only been experimenting with drugs but are convinced, via treatment, that they are serious addicts. If a teenager has been persuaded that she's powerless and has a 90 percent chance of relapse, she's far less likely to exercise self-control when confronted with a drink or drugs. In fact, a 1996 study published by Bill Miller, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, found that those adults who most accepted the idea of personal powerlessness had the most severe and dangerous relapses. Since teenage identities are fluid anyway, encouraging them to view themselves as powerless addicts may cement an anti-social identity that a teen was just trying on for size.The core problem with teen treatment programs is that most teen drug or alcohol users are just not out-of-control addicts. More than one teen in six who's forced into treatment does not even fit the criteria for a "substance abuse disorder" (the less serious diagnosis for an abuser), and most also don't have substance dependence (the psychiatric term for addiction) at all, according to SAMHSA. More troubling, SAMHSA statistics also show that about three-quarters of the U.S. teens now being sent to treatment programs are diverted there by courts or schools, rather than being referred by professionals. In other words, many have problems no more serious than those of their friends who've escaped detection.In addition to labeling kids as addicts, drug programs may also surround them with the worst possible influences. Studies show that teens are more subject to peer pressure than adults—and more influenced by the people around them. Teen treatment programs remove teens from a healthy peer group and surround them with other problem kids, virtually guaranteeing that their role models will be negative. Group therapy during such treatment invariably involves discussions of their drug experiences—which only makes the hard-drug users seem "cooler" because their stories are so much more exciting. Worse, aside from providing a way for relatively inexperienced kids to learn about different ways of getting high and obtaining drugs, these programs frequently offer kids new connections. One 17-year-old girl from Florida told me that she hadn't used cocaine until after treatment—her new best friend from rehab scored it for her. There are treatments for teens that don't reinforce the labeling or peer problems inherent in most drug programs. Research presented at a spring conference held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse compared teens who'd been sent to traditional group sessions with peers to teens who received family therapy, with a third group who had both kinds of care combined. The kids in the peer-group sessions used 50 percent more marijuana after treatment, while the kids in the combined treatment used 11 percent more pot. The teenagers treated with their parents, however, decreased their marijuana use by 71 percent.The greatest irony in the current well-intentioned treatment efforts is that they ignore the few things we do know to be effective in helping teens stop getting high, and chief among them is finishing their education. The better educated someone is, the less likely he is to become an addict or to have a lengthy course of addiction if he does. So removing kids from school and placing them with a more deviant peer group in an unproven therapy is madness—and not much smarter than simply expelling them and tossing them on the street. Not only is the education provided in treatment programs often inferior to that in ordinary school, but having a drug-related disciplinary record diminishes the chances of admission to a decent college. Ultimately, it's clear that the vast majority of teenagers (even those with the very worst problems) simply "mature out" of drug use. This natural recovery process is seen in statistics from the annual federal household survey of drug use, which, for example, find that while 18.4 percent of the population ages 18-24 in 2001 qualified for a diagnosis of alcohol or other drug abuse or dependence, only 5.4 percent of those over 26 meet these criteria. Since less than 2 percent of the total population annually receives treatment (including self-help), most of these young people are clearly recovering on their own.Why, then, do we insist on herding teenagers into inappropriate treatment programs when allowing them to finish school works better? Do parents really want their pot-smoking, experimenting binge-drinkers (who are actually typically more moderate than their own parents were at their age) tossed into "therapy" with heroin injectors and told that they are powerless to resist?Studies show that family therapy and behavioral one-on-one counseling work better for teens than programs modeled on adult addicts. Even for kids with genuine drug addictions, these sorts of treatments may be more helpful, and it's long past time that such programs were implemented in communities rather than debated in the academy. For kids with minor drugs problems or—as is more often the case—for kids who are just being kids, the philosophy must be: First, do no harm. Although we may hate the idea, leaving kids alone and letting them grow out of their habits makes far more sense than testing, punishing, and "curing" them—by making them worse.Note: Teen drug programs turn curious teens into crackheads.Newshawk: CorvallisEricSource: Slate (US Web)Author: Maia SzalavitzPublished: January 03, 2003Copyright: 2003 Microsoft CorporationWebsite: Articles:Tailoring Treatments for Teenage Drug Users Drug Use Declining, Study Shows Drug Use Drops to an 8-Year Low 
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Comment #10 posted by mayan on January 07, 2003 at 17:48:27 PT
You're Right, null 
A 1998 study of nearly 150 teenagers treated in dozens of centers across the country found that there was 202 percent more crack abuse following treatment and a 13 percent increase in alcohol abuse. In other words, recent research suggests that parents and schools may be sending binge-drinking/social marijuana smokers off to treatment and getting back crackheads in their stead.Treatment leads to harder stuff. But could it be that some of these kids were already experimenting with crack & other hard drugs before the treatment because they knew it wasn't as detectable? Drug testing teens is a disaster. Any thinking person could've foreseen this.
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Comment #9 posted by AlvinCool on January 07, 2003 at 17:11:36 PT
I'm participating in a message board on ABC that questions if prisioners on death row should be allowed to ask for death. I've brought up several arguments including the following:Finnish prisions vs our prisonsrevenge vs justicecorrection vs penalhow prison systems create criminals like teen drug rehab creates hard drug addictsCome participate if you feel inclined
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Comment #8 posted by p4me on January 07, 2003 at 10:26:23 PT
Null in comment3 says
Marijuana is the #1 "reason" for treatment because of popularity and easy drug testing detectionAnd cannabis is the most used illicit drug in the world because 1)the United States wants it illegal worldwide, and 2)it is an educated person's drug of choice and is the ideal recreational substance. It could be grown and eliminate the second best reason for not using it- its cost. Of course the first innumeration is still the number one reason for not using it. I wonder what number 3 would be. Well let's make number 3, number 1 and get rid of these prohibitionists and the asses they rode up on.
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Comment #7 posted by druid on January 07, 2003 at 10:22:07 PT
LOLThat's funny. It is a good article though. 
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on January 07, 2003 at 10:19:39 PT
We think much the same. I just posted it!
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Comment #5 posted by druid on January 07, 2003 at 10:18:43 PT
interesting snippet from an Israeli Newspaper From Israel
by Sylvana Foa
Keep on the Grass
The Pot Party Battles Nerve Gas
January 8 - 14, 2003-----snip--------Green Leaf has a modest proposal for dealing with an Iraqi nerve gas attack. Instead of injecting ourselves in the thigh with the drug atropine that comes with gas mask kits, Green Leaf suggests that citizens might simply light a joint, lie back, and enjoy the show.Green Leaf cites research conducted by the U.S. Army and the Israel-based Pharmos Corporation. Rats were exposed to nerve gas and then injected with dexanabinol, a synthetic substitute for hashish. The army tests reportedly showed that the injection reduced brain damage by more than 70 percent.Green Leaf says that what a synthetic will do, the real stuff can do better. It's demanding that the Israeli army consider providing the population with this natural antidote. The grass, Green Leaf says, could come from confiscated dope stored in police warehouses. And there is said to be tons of it. Just one toke should do the trick, so there'd be plenty to go around. --------snip--------------Any Doctors or others know how much truth there is to this?
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Comment #4 posted by Truth on January 07, 2003 at 10:16:07 PT
I wonder how many treatment centers purposely program the patiants to fail. I'm sure they like the money that repeat customers bring to them. The love the insurance money, which drives all our rates higher.
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Comment #3 posted by null on January 07, 2003 at 10:03:02 PT
a new gateway theory
"A 1998 study of nearly 150 teenagers treated in dozens of centers across the country found that there was 202 percent more crack abuse following treatment and a 13 percent increase in alcohol abuse."I bet we never hear Walters talk about the 'treatment gateway'. Maybe it's just that people who are inclined to smoke crack are mostly likely to experiment with some treatment first... ;)This is a well written article. It also confirms something which we have all suspected: Marijuana is the #1 "reason" for treatment because of popularity and easy drug testing detection.... not for need or merit from addiction!!Legalize,
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Comment #2 posted by WolfgangWylde on January 07, 2003 at 09:37:08 PT
Forced treatment... just antoher engine of the Drug War gravy train. From the rehab centers that make big bucks, all the way up to the Drug Warriors who can point to the high numbers as evidence for the necessity of the Drug War.
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Comment #1 posted by Darwin on January 07, 2003 at 09:27:24 PT
Great article
...And so the search for a parental substitute/replacement continues. Sorry folks... There is no substitute to good parenting.
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