Many Teen Drug Treatment Programs Found Lacking

They're missing key components that make rehabilitation likely, study says

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TUESDAY, Sept. 7, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many of the key elements believed to be essential for effective treatment in teen substance abuse programs are missing from a number of highly regarded programs in the United States.

That's the conclusion of a report in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The missing components include "gender and cultural sensitivity," strategies for engaging and retaining teens, and evaluating the success of the treatment, the study found.

For this research, a panel of 22 experts identified nine key elements of effective treatments for teen substance abuse, and reviewed 144 highly regarded adolescent substance abuse programs in the United States. The programs were scored, with a possible total score of 45. The average score for the treatment programs was 23.8.

"Most of the 144 highly regarded programs we surveyed are not addressing the key elements of effective adolescent substance abuse treatment," the study authors wrote.

"More than 40 percent of the reviewed programs fulfilled fewer than half of the 45 components that make up the key elements, and only 3 percent of programs fulfilled four-fifths of these components."

"However, high scores were achieved on individual key elements by several programs in our sample, suggesting that implementing the key elements in practice is already within reach of existing programs," the authors wrote.

The article noted that only 10 percent of the estimated 1.4 million American teens (12 to 17 years old) with an illicit drug problem are receiving treatment, compared to about 20 percent of adults with a drug problem.

The researchers also noted that teens have different needs than adults when it comes to drug treatment programs. For example, adolescent drug users often have additional health problems, developmental needs and are more likely to be binge drug users than adults.

More information

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has more about youth substance abuse programs.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives Journals, news release, September 2004

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