Teen High Rise
Drug and Alcohol Use Among Teens is on the Rise. Pathways Gets to the Root of Substance Abuse.
Many people come to Pathways, the AAMC-affiliated addiction treatment center, because they have reached a crisis point in their lives. They may have been fired from a job, been given an ultimatum by a family member, or be overcome by substance abuse.
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Teenagers make up about 30 percent of the Pathways population, and according to a recent survey, the climate for drug and alcohol abuse among teens is heating up again after a dip from 2002 to 2004. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University recently reported that nearly half of youths ages 12 to 17 said that drugs are kept, used or sold in their schools —almost 10 percent more than last year.
Ida Walsch, M.A., Pathways’ Clinical Team Leader, said those figures mirror what Pathways staff is seeing in the teen population in the county, and is one of the burdens facing teens who have temptation and negative influences surrounding them at school and often at home.
“One of our biggest jobs is to bring back our clients’ self-esteem,” said Helen Reines, R.N., Executive Director of Pathways. “Many of them have lost so much.”
Helping people back to a stable, productive life is the mission of Pathways. The 40-bed inpatient and outpatient facility, under the medical direcction of Paul Giannandrea, M.D., provides a combination of services including detoxification, individual and family counseling and relapse prevention skills. Since the average adult inpatient stay is 7-10 days (adolescent’s is 14-21 days), individual case managers also help people plan how they will continue treatment.
“Recovering from addiction is a process,” said Ms. Reines. “Our program is based on the 12-step model and that involves ongoing, progressive care to assist with the many issues related to addiction.”
Adults and adolescents in Pathways’ programs participate in several daily support group meetings. Adolescents attend school on the premises. And patients have adventure therapy sessions on the outdoor ropes course located on the wooded grounds surrounding the facility. Groups work together to complete physical challenges. In the process, they face fears, develop trust, learn communications skills and identify strengths and weaknesses.
In the intensive outpatient detoxification program, patients come to the treatment center every day. They can stay at home nights, but are able to receive all their medication services in one place and access education materials and therapy, including support groups, grief counseling, and nutrition and spirituality programs. Lynn Tomeck, M.S./LCPC, Adult Inpatient Unit Supervisor, explained that Pathways provides programs to help patients through all phases of their rehabilitation.
“What we try to give people is a toolbox to deal with and change the destructive behaviors that brought them here,” says Ms. Tomeck. “That’s what will help them move on to the next phase and learn to make better choices.”
Because an addict’s entire family is impacted by his or her condition, Pathways therapists also work with patients’ loved ones. They discuss addictive behaviors and how family members can adapt, help develop realistic expectations for progress, and keep everyone involved in the recovery process. In addition, there are regular meetings for program “graduates,” where former addicts gather to support each other and share their experiences with current patients.
A history of drug or alcohol abuse in a family increases the clients’ risk not only for substance abuse, but for other kinds of compulsive behaviors such as gambling and eating disorders, said Ms. Walsch. “There is definitely a biochemical element to addiction that family members need to be aware of,” said Ms.Walsch.
It’s important for all parents to remain vigilant about drug and alcohol use among children, Ms.Walsch continued. Kids can easily access household products and over-the-counter medications, or they may take prescription painkillers or tranquilizers from their homes or other houses they frequent. The Pathways team recommends that parents insist on knowing where their kids are and what they are doing— even if the kids resist.
“Make the call to check on them, to see that parents are around when they’re at a friend’s home,” said Ms. Walsch. “Kids think they’re invincible, so parents need to use what leverage they have.”
Addiction is similar to chronic diseases like diabetes— to remain healthy, people have to follow a new path for the rest of their lives. That’s a challenge for them, says Ms. Reines. She points out that in recovery there’s a shift from knowing intellectually to truly believing.
“When people reach a state of acceptance, they are on their way,” she said. “We say we can see this when knowledge moves from the head to the heart.”
To learn more about Pathways or to get help for someone who is struggling with addiction, contact them at 410-573-5400.