Study Reveals Substance Abuse Among Teens with Mental Health Issues
A new study from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute shows striking levels of substance use among teens seeking mental health care, with one in 10 mentally ill teens reporting frequent use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. This pattern of substance use becomes more common as teens age, and likely heightens risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes, the study reports.
In a University of Sydney news release, lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hermens said,
“Traditionally there have been mental health services, and substance abuse services, but both have been quite separate. Our study shows that we need to integrate mental health interventions with substance use interventions in order to help at-risk young people.
“There is a lot of evidence for the co-morbidity of mental health problems and substance misuse. More people have both mental health and substance use problems than either alone—in other words, it's the rule rather than the exception."
Published in BMJ Open, the study used self-reported data from more than 2,000 people aged 12-30 years seeking mental health care. Overall, substance use rates increased with age across groups, broken into age bands of 12-17, 18-19, and 20-30 year-olds.
Parenting is Prevention
A youth’s perception of risks associated with substance use is an important determinant of whether he or she engages in substance use.
A recent SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health surfaced several important perceptions among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Binge drinking can be categorized as having five or more alcoholic drinks once or twice a week. The good news is that the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from binge alcohol use has increased from 38.2 percent in 2002 to 40.7 percent in 2011; during the same period, the actual rate of binge alcohol use among adolescents decreased from 10.7 to 7.4 percent.
The bad news: between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 54.6 to 44.8 percent, and the rate of past month marijuana use among adolescents increased from 6.7 to 7.9 percent.
Parents and other caring adults who provide adolescents with credible, accurate, and age-appropriate information about harm associated with substance use are an important component of prevention programming. The importance of strong, effective parenting throughout the adolescence, teenage, and young adult years has long been known to be central to helping prevent adolescents from engaging in substance use. However, it is less known but equally true that parental influence can continue to help affect their children’s behavioral environment when they become young adults. Many parents feel that when a child turns 18 that their work is done—that the young person has to make his or her own choices. We often see this with parents whose children go off to college. Yet, many of these students are making poor decisions.
Destructive Behavior: Symptoms, Underlying Issues and Tips for Responding
The bridge from childhood to adulthood can be a very difficult one to cross. That is one of the reasons that many teens end up engaging in destructive behavior. Many troubled teens engage in self-harm behaviors, such as cutting their skin. Eating disorders, substance abuse, violent outbursts and sex addiction are some other examples of self-destructive behaviors.
The good news is that there are a number of ways that a destructive teen can be helped. The first step in getting help for a destructive teen is to recognize the signs. Below are some of the common signs of a destructive teen:
- Depression: Destructive teens usually do not feel very good about themselves. Low self-esteem is strongly correlated with depression. Insomnia, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and decreased energy are some of the most common signs of depression. Depressed teens may also attempt suicide.
- Slipping Grades: Destructive teens often have trouble focusing in school. As a result of this, their grades may begin to slip. A student who once made As and Bs may begin to bring home Cs and Ds if he or she is engaging in destructive behavior.
- Weight Loss: This is common among teens who suffer from an eating disorder. Weight loss could also be an indication of illicit drug use or depression.
- Getting In Trouble With the Law: Destructive teens often drink, use illegal substances or skip school. That is why they may get into trouble with the law.
Understanding Risk for Underage Drinking
The findings of a recent study by researchers at Penn State underline the importance of community in curbing teen alcohol use. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, set out to examine how major risk and protective factors predicted youths' alcohol use. The results offer insights on the influence and interaction of these factors that can be used to inform preventative measures.
Utilizing five large data sets, the researchers analyzed information on more than 200,000 boys and girls in the 8th and 10th grades. While individual, family, and peer risk factors and a community protective factor were seen to moderately predict alcohol use, the relative impact of each factor differed depending on wider context.
The results demonstrated that antisocial attitudes and antisocial peers were not as strongly associated with alcohol use when positive community experiences were also reported. In other words, a caring community may help counteract risk factors for underage drinking. Among the conclusions drawn, the researchers report, “public health advocates should focus on context (e.g., community factors) as a strategy for curbing underage alcohol use.”
Future research can continue to fine-tune understandings of risk factors in different environments to improve prevention efforts. By pinpointing the most important predictors of adolescent substance use, not only can these findings help communities better identify at-risk youth, they can also direct prevention resources to where they are most effective—and needed.
Almost 50 Percent Fewer Youth Arrested in Florida Schools; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Courts making strides in protecting children, vulnerable adults (Lincoln Journal Star)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican thanked lawmakers for passing legislation last session to enhance the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, which is designed to keep children involved in the juvenile justice system from becoming repeat offenders. The project aims to keep children from being jailed while they receive services or treatment.
- Changes made in laws affecting youths (Midland Daily News)
It’s been years in the making, but now some big changes have been made to laws pertaining to juveniles in court. “The predominant push is the idea that we need to have laws that are geared to juveniles,” Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen said. “Not use adult laws for juveniles.”
- Almost 50 percent fewer youth arrested in Florida schools (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice)
The number of youth arrested in Florida’s public schools declined 48 percent in the past eight years, from more than 24,000 to 12,520, according to a study released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The decline corresponds with a downward trend in juvenile delinquency in all categories across the state.
- Building their future: Youth offenders learn woodworking, life skills in lockup (Waco Tribune-Herald)
In a small shop building at the state youth lockup in Mart, teenage boys who have gotten into trouble with the law are learning woodworking skills that officials hope can be put to good use for the community.
- Best Of 2012: Juvenile Justice Desk (Youth Radio)
In 2012, Youth Radio's Juvenile Justice Desk followed some major changes to youth sentencing in California and the nation.
Top 5 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012
5. Scared Straight Programs Are All Talk
After "Scared Straight" became popular in the 1970s, a number of research reports evaluated children who went through the program compared to control groups and found that many of the youth who attended “scared straight” programs were actually worse off than the youth who had no intervention.
4. Punishment vs. Rehabilitation and the Effects of Trauma on High-Risk Youth
Studies show that 75 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events; 50 percent have endured post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Top 21-25 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012
This has been quite a year for our juvenile justice blog. Not only has readership more than doubled (thank you!) but we've partnered with a number of great organizations and journalists to provide you with more frequent analysis, research and ideas for reform.
As last year, our articles explaining why "Scared Straight" tactics do more harm than good, continue to be some of our most-read and shared posts. But this year, we also took a look at the effects of trauma on kids, raise-the-age efforts and the Supreme Court decision to ban life without the option of parole for juveniles.
This week, we're doing a countdown of the top 25 stories from 2012.
25. Mentoring: Best Practices for High Risk Youth
Mentoring has been shown to reduce drug and alcohol use and help justice-involved teens get back on track. Jessica Jones share five best practices for a successful mentoring program.
24. Inside the Juvenile Justice System: A Look at How the System Works
While readers may be familiar with the criminal system through tv shows, the juvenile system is less well-known and understood. The County of San Diego explains the juvenile system.
Ending the Tobacco Epidemic
A recent SAMHSA report indicates that adolescent cigarette use nationwide declined significantly over the past decade. However, smoking remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death, responsible for an estimated 443,000 American deaths each year, with 50,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. One in eleven adolescents in the U.S. report smoking in the past month. In addition, tobacco use takes an enormous toll among people with mental and substance use disorders:
- Almost half of tobacco deaths are people with mental and substance use disorders
- Forty-four percent of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. are smoked by people with mental and substance use disorders
- Tobacco dependence is the most prevalent drug abuse disorder among adults with mental illness
- Smoking tobacco causes more deaths among clients in substance abuse treatment than the alcohol or drug use that brings them to treatment
Beginning in 2009, a working group of public health experts across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convened to develop a Department-wide strategic action plan for tobacco control to accelerate progress in ending the tobacco epidemic. As a result, in 2010, HHS unveiled a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy: Ending the Tobacco Epidemic: A Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | October 2012
Did you miss some of our blog posts last month? Not to worry - here's a round-up of our most popular posts from October 2012.
10. [NEW REPORT] Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble
Over the past few years, Texas has shifted youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities to smaller community programs. And they're seeing great results.
9. October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
Last month, over 20 states are holding events to raise awareness about youth justice issues and the juvenile justice system.
8. 7 Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice
A new article from the New York Law School Law Review examines problems with the juvenile justice system and offers solutions for a more productive youth justice system.
7. NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic
Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, young people in North Carolina partnered with police officers and community members to create a short movie against bullying.