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  • 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
    by LIZ WU

    And this is it, folks, the end of our countdown! We've already shared the top 25, top 20, top 15, and top 10. And now, here are the top 5 blog posts of 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
    by LIZ WU

    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.

  • Drug Guide for Parents, Youth Workers
    by LIZ WU

    Our friends at the Partnership at have put together a 1 page guide to the 13 drugs commonly abused by teens. The guide covers street names, photos, drug effects and signs of abuse.

    Download the full guide here.

  • 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
    by LIZ WU

    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.

  • Above the Influence Day!
    by LIZ WU

    Today is Above the Influence day! Given the link between substance abuse and teen crime, it's more important than ever to help our young people say no to drugs and alcohol.

    The ONDCP is sponsoring events across the country to celebrate youth who avoide pressure to use drugs and alcohol. How are you promoting healthy behaviors in your community? 

  • Addressing Underage Drinking at the Local Level

    The Brighton Park Drug Free Community Coalition (Families Against Drugs in Area 58), based in Chicago, just completed our 7th year as a grantee in ONDCP’s Drug Free Communities Support Program. With National Substance Abuse Prevention month upon us, we recognize the importance of being unified across communities to influence a change in the cycle of substance abuse. Recently, our coalition has focused our efforts on the issue of underage drinking. Described below is one of our most recent – and most rewarding – youth events:

    An alcohol-free ‘Quinceañera’
    For young girls in the Latino community, turning 15 is a special occasion and one meant to symbolize their passage into womanhood. To celebrate this transition, families throw a "quinceañera" for the teen of honor. Once a proud tradition focusing on a girl's faith and values, quinceañeras today have become lavish parties with no shortage of alcohol.

  • The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Teen Crime

    Consistent and substantial evidence exists that supports the relationship between substance abuse and criminal behaviors in youth.[1] Youthful offenders demonstrate elevated rates of substance abuse in comparison to non-offending youth. [2] Substance abuse often increases recidivism and reflects a deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system.[3] Drug and alcohol use also increases the likelihood that a youthful offender will have prolonged interaction with the juvenile justice system. [4] In addition, substance abuse produces antisocial behavior in youth.[5] Severe substance abuse is associated with increased rates of offending and more serious offenses.[6] Furthermore, the younger the child is at the onset of substance use usually reflects greater probabilities for severe and chronic offending.[7]

    For example, in 2010, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission found that twenty-five percent of all the juveniles referred were “frequent drug users.”[8] In 2009, forty-seven percent of children committed to the Texas Youth Commission were chemically dependent.[9] Less than half of these chemically dependent children received any type of substance abuse treatment. [10] The development of effective substance abuse treatment programs for juvenile offenders should be considered a “vital component” for overall rehabilitation efforts.[11]

  • Report: Frequent Family Dinners Make a Big Difference in Teens’ Substance Use

    A new white paper from CASAColumbia reports that family dinners make a big difference in teens’ use of illegal substances. The Importance of Family Dinners VIII found that teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week) are more likely to report excellent relationships with their parents and therefore are less likely to use marijuana, alcohol or tobacco than teens who have infrequent family dinners (two or less per week).

    CASAColumbia surveyed teenagers 12 to 17 years old in order to arm parents with the information they need to help their children develop life skills and choose a substance free lifestyle. The findings presented are from The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens.

    In 2012, 57 percent of teens reported having family dinners at least five times a week. The results show frequent family dinners increased the amount of parental knowledge about their kids’ lives. On average, teens with frequent family dinners were three times less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke compared to teens that have infrequent family dinners.

  • What Do Bullying and Youth Substance Use Have in Common? More Than You Might Think

    October is Bullying Prevention Month and National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a busy and important time for prevention efforts. On the surface, bullying and youth substance use may seem like separate problems. However, from research, we know that youth who use substances are at risk for other problem behaviors during their teen years. In fact, new findings suggest that middle and high school students who bully their peers are more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana.

    Bullying and substance use among children and teenagers have shared risk and protective factors. Effective prevention efforts minimize these risk factors and maximize protective factors in a child’s life. If a problem has already surfaced, learn to recognize the warning signs of bullying and being bullied, underage alcohol use, and drug use to intervene before the problem becomes worse.

    But let’s rewind: how do you know which risk and protective factors to focus on? Read on!

  • Bath Salts: The Drug That Never Lets Go
    by LIZ WU

    PBS Newshour has an in-depth piece out on bath salts: their origins, growing popularity and (adverse) effects. It's particularly interesting to learn how bath salts actually affect the brain. From the article:

    Taking bath salts, it seemed, was similar to taking amphetamine and cocaine at the same time. Except for one thing: MDPV is as much as 10 times stronger than cocaine.

    Imagine the space between the nerve cells as a kitchen sink and the water as dopamine. In the brain's natural state, the faucet, or nerve cell endings, are always leaking some dopamine, and the drain is always slightly open, vacuuming some of the chemical back into the cell. Methamphetamine turns the faucet on high. Cocaine closes the drain. Bath salts, researchers discovered, do both at the same time. With the faucet on and the drain closed, the water overflows. In other words, the drug was flooding the brain.

    Gif Created on Make A Gif

  • Taking a Stand Against Teen Medicine Abuse

    With prescription medicines now the most commonly abused drugs among 12 and 13 year olds, The Partnership at is highlighting the need to bring attention to this public health crisis.

    Last week marked the launch of The Medicine Abuse Project, a multi-year effort aimed at preventing half a million teens from abusing medicine within the next five years. And, on its heels, The Partnership has released an infographic that summarizes the popularity and dangers of medicine abuse, along with the clear disconnect between parents and teens on the matter. According to the graphic, 1 in 6 teens has used a prescription drug to get high or alter moods, and 65 percent of teens who abuse pain relievers get them from home or friends.

    The unprecedented accessibility of prescription drugs means it’s more important than ever for parents to safeguard medicines at home and administer them appropriately; however, the infographic also illustrates that parents are not often on the same page with teens when it comes to taking prescription medication: Only 3 percent of parents admit to giving their teenager a medicine not prescribed to them, but 22 percent of teens say their parents have done so.

  • Popular Teens Pressured to Smoke Cigarettes

    The more friends a student has, the more likely s/he is to smoke cigarettes. Findings from a recent report show that popular teens are succumbing to peer pressure to smoke cigarettes at a younger age.

    Researchers from the Journal of Adolescent Health surveyed 1,950 ninth and 10th grade students to determine their personal thoughts about smoking and their thoughts about peers smoking. Report data show that a student’s risk of smoking is increased by the level of popularity s/he holds among peers. Popularity was measured by the number of times a student’s name was mentioned as a friend. An egocentric measure of behavior also proved that having friends who smoke leads to a strong association of individual smoking habits. Survey results found friend selection to be a major factor behind behavior habits; teens with friends who smoked were more susceptible to becoming a smoker themselves.

    Continual evidence shows that popular kids choosing to light up are using their popularity to pressure other students to do the same. Peer pressure is a large indicator in adolescent behavior and “we haven’t done enough to make smoking un-cool” said study author Thomas Valente. Studies show that students will try what the majority is doing in order to be liked, and smoking is a popular, but negative, product of that behavior. If teens think smoking is the popular behavior among their peers, they will be more likely to try smoking.

  • Back to School Survey: Teens' Take on Drugs, Alcohol in Schools

    A survey of over 1000 12 to 17-year-olds across the United States revealed the drastically high rate at which schools are becoming increasingly “drug infected” as well as the easy accessibility that teens have to drugs. The “Back to School Survey”, published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia), also covers teens’ perspectives on their attitudes toward drugs and alcohol and their parents’ opinions on drug and alcohol use, as well as the impact that drug and alcohol related images have on their peers.

    The 2012 report stated that 60% of students reported that their schools are drug infected, meaning that drugs are used, kept or sold on school premises. Nearly 97% percent of students say that they have friends who use drugs or alcohol and nearly all students questioned said that they knew students who used while at school. Students estimated about 1 in 5 of their classmates are using drugs or alcohol while at school. This trend of drug infected schools isn’t specific to public schools. The gap between drug infected public and private schools has continually narrowed since the survey began in the early 1990s. In 2012, 54%, an increase of 50% from 2011, of students who attend private schools reported that their schools were drug infected.

  • Contest: Calling All Young Musicians
    by LIZ WU

    The GRAMMY Foundation, Partnership at and MusiCares are looking for young musicians (ages 14-18) to write an original song or create a music video that promotes and celebrates a healthy lifestyle and appropriately depicts a story about drug abuse. Songs should raise awareness about addiction and recovery. 

    The first, second and third place winners will each receive:

    • A trip to Los Angeles to attend the 55th annual GRAMMY Awards Backstage Experience, a unique backstage tour taking place as artists rehearse live for the GRAMMY awards;
    • Placement and exposure of their musical entries on the GRAMMY365 website, MTV Act Blog, and the Above the Influence campaign website;
    • An iPad, equipped with the GarageBand app;
    • The opportunity to release a record with Iron Ridge Road Recordings, courtesy of Clarity Way of Hanover, PA; and
    • A certificate from the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares in acknowledgment of each winner’s activism in disseminating of health information on substance abuse.

  • Your Brain on Bath Salts [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    We've written previously about "bath salts," synthetic stimulants that can cause violence and erratic behavior in its users. They are increasingly popular with teens and are easily found at gas stations and grocery stores.

    Bath salts may also be as addictive as cocaine, according to new research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

    So how exactly do bath salts affect a brain? Check out the infographic after the jump.

  • PODCAST: Art, Troubled Teens and Recovery

    Sadly in America, many times the answer to substance abuse problems for young persons is jail. Jail does allow them to get sober but once released most will once again go down the same path and wind up in jail again. It becomes a revolving door with a young person's life being basically tossed away.

    In Snohomish County in the state of Washington, the local Reclaiming Futures effort has a new program that may help to change that. It is called PAIRS-Promising Artists in Recovery.

  • The Importance of Teen Substance Use Prevention in the LGBTQ Community

    According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students are at higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse than heterosexual students.

    During Pride Month, I was pleased to meet with leaders and advocates from the LGBTQ community to talk about substance use and other important issues facing those who are “differently” oriented. I told them how proud I was to work for a President who has made more LGBTQ appointments than any before him and whose Administration is committed to securing equality for all citizens, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.

    We also talked about the importance of prevention – stopping substance use before it begins and identifying drug-related problems early. Alcohol and drugs can wreak havoc on even the most supportive and nurturing environments, so it is crucial for these young people, and indeed for all Americans, to remain vigilant against the threat.

  • Resiliency During Early Teen Years can Protect Against Later Alcohol, Drug Use

    Resiliency is a measure of a person’s ability to flexibly adapt their behaviors to fit the surroundings in which they find themselves. Low resiliency during childhood has been linked to later alcohol/drug problems during the teenage years. A new study has examined brain function and connectivity to assess linkages between resiliency and working memory, finding that higher resiliency may be protective against later alcohol/drug use.

    Results will be published in the August 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

    “Research in the 1980’s found that lower resiliency in children between three to four years old was related to subsequent adolescent drug usage,” said Barbara J. Weiland, a researcher at The University of Michigan and corresponding author for the study. “We subsequently found that low resiliency measured in preschoolers was associated with onset of alcohol use by age 14 and of drunkenness by age 17.”

  • SAMHSA, Local Communities Take Action to Curb Underage Drinking
    by SAMHSA

    This fall, SAMHSA plans to launch "Talk. They Hear You."—its third National Underage Drinking Campaign. With the help of a panel of experts to guide research, objectives, and strategies, SAMHSA has focused the campaign on engaging parents of youth ages 9 to 15 in prevention behaviors and motivating them to talk to their kids before there is a problem. The campaign aims to provide parents with practical advice, information, and tools to support their role as influencers on their child's decision not to drink.

    Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal in the U.S., yet according to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2010, approximately 10 million youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Underage drinking increases the risk of academic failure, illicit drug use, and tobacco use. And as a leading contributor to death from injuries for people under age 21, underage drinking continues to be a public health concern with serious consequences for youth, their families, and their communities.

    In 2006, Congress passed the Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act that requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and enhance the efforts of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking. It is through the STOP Underage Drinking Act that SAMHSA's Underage Drinking Prevention National Media Campaign is mandated.

  • Teens More Likely to Try Substances During Summer

    The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a government sponsored study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that teens were more like to try new substances for the first time during June and July. The study surveyed teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who reported trying a new substance within the previous year.

    The average daily rates for first-time alcohol use range from 5,000-8,000 and 3,000- 4,000 for first-time cigarette and marijuana use. On an average day in June and July, first time alcohol users alone can reach up to approximately 11,000. In addition, during those two summer months, an average of 4,500 young adults sample cigarettes for the first time and 5,000 teens begin using marijuana.

    While there are several possible reasons as to why this jump in first-time substance users occurs in the summer, the most likely are that adolescents have a sudden increase in their free time as well as less adult supervision and responsibilities that are present during the school year.

  • This is Your Teen on Drugs [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    Good news: fewer teens are using drugs now than in the mid-1990s. In the University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" survey, 17% of teens reported using drugs in the 30 days before the survey, as compared to 20.6% in 1996. Alcohol, cigarette and smokeless tobacco use are also down, while marijuana is on the rise.

    (Check out this interactive infographic based on the report's findings from GOOD Magazine.)

    More specifically, the survey found:

  • Families are the Frontline: Preventing, Treating and Recovering from Substance Use, Mental Disorders
    by LIZ WU

    Families can and do play an important role in preventing, treating and recovering from substance abuse. As part of the National Recovery Month's Road to Recovery video series, Ivette Torres (director for Consumer Affairs at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) speaks with doctors, advocates and treatment providers to find out just how families can support their struggling loved ones.

    Panelists answer the following questions:

  • Teens with Mental Health Conditions More Likely to be Prescribed Long-Term Opioids for Chronic Pain

    The Journal of Adolescent Health recently published a study in its June issue titled, Mental Health Disorders and Long-term Opioid Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Chronic Pain. This study concluded that adolescences and young adults with preexisting mental health conditions are 2.4 times more likely to be prescribed opioids over extended periods of time for chronic pain. The most common documented chronic pain complaints included back pain, neck pain, headache and arthritis or joint pain.

    Researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington looked at 13 to 24 year-olds across the West, Midwest and Southwest United States to examine the association between long-term opioid use and mental health disorders. They found that older male youth who live in low-income communities with fewer residents who attended college, were even more likely to use opioids for extended periods.

  • Study Finds Teen Drinkers More Likely to Feel Like Social Outcasts

    A study recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that adolescents who engage in teenage drinking not only perform poorer academically than their non-drinking peers, but also have much higher tendencies to feel like social outcasts. This is due to the social stress caused by underage drinking.

    According to the American Sociological Association, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Michigan State University conducted their study, “Drinking, Socioemotional Functioning, and Academic Progress in Secondary School,” by closely examining the data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Add Health began in 1994 and is the largest comprehensive survey of health-related behavior among adolescents between grades 7 and 12.

    In addition to the initial findings that underage drinking is linked to feelings of ostracism and poor academic performance, researchers concluded that these feelings of loneliness and social stress are greatly increased in school environments with student populations that tend to form close-knit cliques and do not abuse alcohol.

  • Join Today's Recovery Month Twitter Chat
    by LIZ WU

    Recovery Month is hosting a Twitter chat from 1 pm ET to 2 pm ET today, to spread the word that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover. Hosts Paolo Del Vecchio (Acting Director, Center for Mental Healh Services) and Catherine Nugent, LCPC (Senior Public Health Analyst, Center for Mental Health Services) will answer questions and share expertise about recovery-oriented services and support for people in or seeking recovery from substance abuse. 

    From Recovery Month:

    Join the Twitter chat by asking questions and contributing to the dialogue by using the designated hashtag #RecoveryChat to track and signify your participation in the conversation. We encourage you to share any insights or experiences you have that relate to recovery support.

    If you are not available for the chat, tweet your questions to @RecoveryMonth in advance, using the hashtag #RecoveryChat. Also, if you aren’t on Twitter, but would like to participate, post your questions or thoughts on the Recovery Month Facebook Page or send questions in an email to

    If you are new to Twitter chats, you can use the following steps to sign up and participate:

  • Take Action During National Prevention Week: Prevent Illicit Drug Use and Prescription Drug Abuse

    Sometimes people cope with difficult life situations or seek new experiences in harmful ways, such as experimenting with drugs to try to overcome stress or feel something new. Others assume that if they’re not using an illegal drug, but a medication prescribed by a doctor, it’s safe to do so. However, illicit drug use and the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs are always dangerous and can lead to addiction, impaired decision-making, increased risk of psychosis, and severe physical consequences, including seizures, heart failure, and even death.

    The goal of today’s National Prevention Week theme is to raise awareness about preventing drug use and abuse in the United States. In 2010, there were an estimated 23 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. who were current illicit drug users, and 7 million Americans reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. With the right tools, facts, and resources, you can take action to prevent illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse in your own community:

    • If you’re a parent, get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs;
    • If you’re a teacher, create positive learning environments by setting high expectations for positive social interactions and addressing inappropriate behavior; and
    • If you’re a community leader, learn about effective prevention programs, such as those listed through SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, an online registry of more than 200 proven prevention interventions.
    • If you’re an interested community member, visit the National Prevention Week Events page to get involved in an event taking place in your area, or to get inspiration for event ideas for your community.

  • Study Finds Parents of a Teen’s Friends Influence Substance Use

    Teens are notorious for rebelling against parents. However, when it comes to making decisions about substance use and abuse, a recently published study indicates that adolescents may still be significantly influenced by not only their own parents, but also the parents of their friends.

    In the article “Do Peers' Parents Matter? A New Link Between Positive Parenting and Adolescent Substance Use” published in the The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, authors Michael J. Cleveland, Mark E. Feinberg, D. Wayne Osgood and James Moody drew on conceptions of shared parenting and the tenets of coercion theory to investigate the extent to which three domains of parenting behaviors (parental knowledge, inductive reasoning, and consistent discipline) influenced the alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use of not only their own adolescent children but also of members of their adolescents' friendship groups. In addition, the article discusses implications of the joint contribution of parents and peers for prevention and intervention.

    Among the study’s findings:

  • National Prevention Week is May 20-26!

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has created a new annual health initiative called National Prevention Week. This year’s event will span May 20-26, with the theme: “We are the ones. How are you taking action?”

    SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. This national observance celebrates the work that community organizations and individuals do year-round to prevent substance abuse and promote mental, emotional, and behavioral wellbeing, while serving as an opportunity for community members to learn more about behavioral health issues and get involved in prevention efforts throughout the year.

    The event’s dates were strategically selected to coincide with the beginning of summer, a season filled with celebrations and recreational activities that can potentially be linked to substance use and abuse (such as graduation parties, proms, weddings, boating and camping excursions); it is also timed to allow schools to take part in a prevention-themed event before the school year ends, raising awareness in students of all ages.

  • Using PhotoVoice to Understand Youth Perspectives on Substance Abuse Recovery

    Just finishing up an IRB this morning to submit to PSU to get permission to proceed with a new research project I’ve been committed to doing for several years now. Most excited to jump into it this summer. Here is the brief required narrative from my proposal:

    Substance abuse remains a formidable problem in the U.S. Until recently, adolescent substance abuse treatment frameworks and related research about them was under-developed. However in the last ten years, there has been significant development in both treatment models and research in the area (Carter Narendorf & McMillan, 2010). Simultaneously, there has been a movement in motion regarding the “recovery” process which is associated with, but tends to follow, formal treatment (Sheedy & Whitter, 2009). What happens when people leave treatment and begin a new life in “recovery?” This research will fill a gap in the addiction recovery literature by centering youth perspectives on their unique developmental view of the process of recovery from addiction as they experience it. Research questions include:

    • What does recovery mean to young people following cessation of alcohol and drug abuse?
    • What are examples of recovery in the lives of young people who are experiencing it?
    • What do young people wish people knew about the recovery process from their own points of view?
    • What risks and what reinforcements to recovery do young people experience in their lives?

  • 60 Minutes: The Disease of Addiction
    by LIZ WU

    In case you missed it: last night's 60 Minutes included a segment on addiction, how drugs affect the brain and why it can be so difficult to quit. 

    The segment follows Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and explores her work on treating addiction as a disease, not a character flaw. 

  • Bullying: A Root Cause We Can Uproot

    Bully, a new documentary film by Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen, is intimate, human, honest, and gorgeously scored—all the trappings of a good movie. But Bully’s passionate yet well-crafted social message – a plea to end bullying and improve millions of lives in the process – makes it truly great, and possibly the most important film of the year.

    The movie portrays kids and families across the country whose lives have been irrevocably altered by bullying. A girl and her parents have been shunned and abused ever since she came out as a lesbian. A boy has convinced himself that the kids who punch, stab, and strangle him daily on the school bus do it because they are his “friends.” Another girl is charged with multiple felony counts after brandishing a gun in hopes of scaring off her tormentors. Two sets of parents try to cope after losing their sons, ages 17 and 11, to suicide. And there are millions more stories like these—13 million kids are bullied in the United States each year.

  • Teens Drinking Hand Sanitizer
    by LIZ WU

    This just in: According to the Los Angeles Times, teens are drinking hand sanitizer in order to get drunk. Six California teenagers have ended up in the emergency room over the past few months. 

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    From the article:

  • North Carolina Update: Screening for Adolescent Substance Abuse

    The first step of the Reclaiming Futures model is to screen youth entering the juvenile justice system for substance abuse problems using a reputable screening tool. Each of the six sites in North Carolina have adopted the Global Appraisal for Individual Needs Short Screener (GAIN-SS).

    From 2010-2011, 2,663 GAIN screeners were completed with 2,490 youth in Reclaiming Futures' North Carolina sites. Of these screenings, 22% scored at moderate to high risk on the substance disorder screener. This indicates that these youths may need substance abuse, dependence or substance use disorder treatment and therefore should be referred for further assessment. Approximately 18% of youth scored high risk on the overall screening with an additional 75% scoring moderate risk, indicating need for substance abuse and/or mental health assessment/treatment.

    This tool has been made available to all counties through the North Carolina Juvenile Online Information Network (NC-JOIN). Since July 2011, 58 counties have used NC-JOIN to track results of the GAIN screening results. This data is then used to make appropriate referrals and in development of service plans for youths.

  • Addiction, Recovery and the Dangers Young People Face Today

    Robotripping, dank, bath salts, spice, triple C’s, skittles, Roxies, Oxys, Xanibars, K2, if these names don’t sound familiar, the current trends in juvenile drug abuse are as surprising to you as they were to me.

    A recovering addict myself, I was alarmed to learn what kinds of drugs are being used by our youth today. The drugs are mostly synthetic, increasingly lethal, tend to require medically supervised withdrawal, and, in many cases, are undetectable by drug test.

    In 2010, SAMHSA reported 10.1 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users. That same year, the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among young adults aged 18 to 25, stood at 21.5 percent.

    The rate of binge drinking in 2010 was 40.6 percent for young adults aged 18 to 25. Heavy alcohol use was reported by 13.6 percent of persons aged 18 to 25. According to the CDC about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks. The National Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse reported 42 percent of college students report binge drinking in the previous two weeks.  Not all of them go on to become alcoholics. But enough of them do that support systems in our schools and colleges are implemented.

  • Is One Sniff Worth a Life? [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    According to the Pat Moore Foundation, inhalants are often the first drug used by adolescents. What teens may not know, is that just one huff is enough to kill them. That's why the foundation put together the following infographic, detailing the extrame danger of huffing.

    Click through to see the infographic.

  • JMATE 2012: How Can Research Inform Development of More Collaborative and Integrated Care Models for Youth and Families?
    by LIZ WU

    Half of all psychiatric disorders occur before the age of fifteen. Most childhood onset psychiatric disorders increase the risk of developing early onset substance use disorder. And substance use increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders.

    So, what can treatment providers do to improve the care of kids who are using substances and may have (or be developing) psychiatric disorders?

    According to Dr. Paula Riggs (director, Division of Substance Dependence, University of Colorado's School of Medicine), treatment providers need to compile a detailed history of substance use disorders for the child and his/her family. The history should include:

    • school risk factors (such as poor academic performance and substance use among the child’s friends);
    • attention to any substance used more than five times;
    • onset of substance use;
    • the progression to current substance use; and
    • frequency of use.

    Dr. Riggs explained that this history is vital to understanding the cause of cause and risk of substance use and dependence. By gathering and analyzing this information, treatment providers will be able to provide a good diagnosis, which should drive treatment. “We shouldn’t be treating things unless we know what we are treating,” she said.

  • Most Teens Have Tried Drugs and Alcohol by the Time they Turn 18
    by LIZ WU

    A recent survey of over 10,000 American teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18, found that the majority had tried alcohol and/or drugs by the time they reach adulthood. More specifically, four out of five teens had tried alcohol and one in five had tried drugs by the time they turned 18.

    From CBS News:

    "Because the early onset of substance use is a significant predictor of substance use behavior and disorders in a lifespan, the public health implications of the current findings are far reaching." the researchers wrote.

    A disturbing finding was that 15 percent of the teens met the criteria for lifetime alcohol abuse, and 16 percent could be categorized as drug abusers. The median age for alcohol abuse to begin was 14 with or without dependent behavior. The median age for drug abuse with dependence to start was at the age of 14 and teens who started abusing illicit substances at 15 were less likely to be dependent.

    Previous studies have shown that the earlier substance abuse begins, the higher the likelihood for addiction. From Reuters:

  • Boston Recovery School Turns Teen Addicts into Graduates
    by LIZ WU

    Last night, CBS News ran a segment on a recovery school in Boston that takes teen addicts and turns them into graduates with a bright future.

    For students, the recovery school is a place to learn while also receiving recovery support from staff who have struggled with these issues themselves.

  • This is Your Brain on Prescription Drugs [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    Those working in the substance use treatment and recovery fields should check out this really informative infographic: This is Your Brain on Prescription Drugs:

    (click through to see the full infographic)

  • Adolescent Substance Abuse: Bath Salts and Spice
    by LIZ WU

    More than 1 in 10 American high schoolers have used synthetic marijuana (also known as K2 or Spice) in the past year. But many parents, educators and youth workers may not be familiar with this new drug. Thankfully, The Partnership at has a very informative slideshare presentation on both Bath Salts and K2/Spice. The presentation discusses what exactly the drugs are, how they affect users and what to do if a loved one is abusing these dangerous substances.

  • Addiction Recovery for Young Adults: It's Complicated
    Pipeline Art

    Michael Fishman

    At the National Collegiate Recovery Conference Wednesday at Kennesaw State University, Michael Fishman, Director of the Young Adult Program at Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta, neatly summed up everything he had learned in 22 years of treating addiction in young adults. The recurring theme of his keynote address: It’s complicated.

    “Most young adults are generally poly-substance abusers,” he said.

    They aren’t just using marijuana; they’re also drinking, Fishman says. It’s not just opioids, it’s opioids and anti-depressants or any other combination. And that complicates the picture for doctors trying to get to know their patient’s true diagnosis.

    “The drugs and alcohol may mask the underlying pathology,” Fishman said. Withdrawal symptoms, he added, “cloud the picture,” as do toxicity and detox.

    Additionally, many young adults suffering from addiction are also suffering from mental illness of some kind, what Fishman calls “dual-diagnosis.” Depression and anxiety are common in substance abusers and the addiction may begin as an attempt to self-medicate, which Fishman says doesn’t work.

    “Ask any young person who self-medicates how that’s working out for them,” he said with a laugh.

  • Study Finds Internet Addiction Could be Warning Sign of Substance Use in Teens
    by LIZ WU

    A new study found that teens with "pathologic internet use" are more likely to have used illicit substances. The research also points toward "some common personality characteristics" among adolescents who are addicted to the internet and have a history of substance abuse.

    Published in the March issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, Greek researchers surveyed all of the adolescents on the Greek island of Kos regarding internet use, substance use and personality factors. They found that as the severity of the internet addiction increased, so did the likelihood of substance abuse.

  • Study Estimates Hospitalizations for Underage Drinking Cost $755 Million Per Year

    Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported findings showing binge drinking in the United States is a bigger problem than previously thought. Statistics show an estimated 10.8 million young people between the ages of 12-20 are current drinkers and nearly 7.2 million binge drink.

    Now findings (subscription required) published today in the Journal of Adolescent Health estimate that the total cost for hospitalizations related to underage drinking is about $755 million per year.

    In the study, Mayo Clinic researchers analyzed most 2008 data from Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest all-payer inpatient care database in the United States, data from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2008 to determine the incidence rate of underage drinking hospitalizations, identify geographic and demographic differences in the incidence of alcohol-related hospital admissions and calculate costs of these hospitalizations.

  • New Siblings Brain Study Sheds Light on Addiction
    by LIZ WU

    A new study published this week in Science, suggests that addicts have inherited abnormalities in some parts of the brain, which interfere with impulse control.

    Researchers from the University of Cambridge examined 50 pairs of biological siblings (in which one sibling was addicted to cocaine or amphetamines and the other was not) against a control group of 50 healthy, drug free and non-related volunteers. First they tested the self-control levels and then performed brain scans. What they found could have big implications for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. 

    From Science:

    Much to the researchers' surprise, the siblings who didn't use drugs performed as poorly on the test as the ones who did. All of the sibling pairs did worse than the healthy controls, the team reports in the 3 February issue of Science.

    Brain scans also showed that both members of the sibling pairs had abnormal interconnections between parts of the brain that exert control and those involved with drive and reward. Some individual brain structures were abnormal as well; the putamen, which plays a key role in habit formation, was larger in the siblings than in control subjects, as was the medial temporal lobe, which is involved in learning and memory. Because these anomalies appeared in the siblings but not in the unrelated controls, Ersche believes the finding provides a measurable, biological basis for vulnerability to addiction.