Roundup: Marijuana "Gateway" Effect Less Important than Other Factors - and More

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_News-signAdolescent Substance Abuse and Related Treatment News

  • Is marijuana a "gateway" to other drug use? Not so much, according to new research, and "over-criminalizing" its use can contribute to young adults' use of other illicit drugs. According to the study, race and ethnicity are the best predictors of whether someone will use illicit drugs besides marijuana: non-Hispanic whites are more likely to use them than are (in order) Hispanics or African Americans. Furthermore, although marijuana use in one's teen years might lead to use of other drugs, youth apparently "age out" of that when they reach 21. Unemployment is a factor too, which suggests that, as one researcher concluded, "over-criminalizing youth marijuana use might create more serious problems if it interferes with later employment opportunities." (Hat tip to Robert Ackley.) Related reading: Jeff Butts on "The Enduring Gateway Myth."
  • Teen use of alcohol and drugs can be significantly reduced with brief, school-based interventions by mental health therapists or even by teachers given minimal training, according to a new study from the U.K. Researchers evaluated their use of alcohol and drugs at six months post-intervention, so it's not clear if the effects would need to be repeated on a regular basis.


General Substance Abuse News

Adolescent Development plus Youth in Detention Helped by Yoga and Mind/Body Awareness

  • Developing Adolescents: a Resource for Professionals is a useful 2002 resource from the American Psychological Association. Despite its title, you don't have to be a "pro" to find it helpful, as it condenses a lot of research into helpful, bite-sized guidance on adolescent development -- physical, cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral. Check out page 16 for great "Tips for Talking with Adolescents." (Hat tip to Paul Savery.)
  • positive-youth-development_Vinny-Ferraro-Mind-Body-Awareness-ProjectThe Mind-Body Awareness Project (MBA Project) in California works with 1,500 youth a year in youth prisons, juvenile halls, and detention camps, as well as in schools, group homes, and teen centers. The goal is to provide youth with "concrete tools to reduce stress, impulsivity and violent behavior and increase self-esteem, self-regulation and overall well-being." Pilot research studies done so far suggest that its method is effective at helping teens self-regulate their behavior, and reducing their sense of stress. More research is underway.

A key factor in the program's success is its reliance on charismatic workshop leaders who've "been there" and who work well with teens. In fact, the Teacher Training Director at the MBA Project, Vinny Ferraro (pictured above), made the cover of the Buddhist magazine, Tricycle in spring 2010. Check out the story of his conversion from teen gangster to a guy who now "cries for a living and teaches meditation." (Warning: profanity appears in the article.) Hat tip to Paul Savery.

  • Street Yoga is an organization based in Portland, Oregon that provides yoga classes to youth and their caregivers for free at 22 sites across the city. In addition to serving homeless youth and youth in alternative schools (shown in the video below), the organization also provides regular classes in yoga, meditation, and wellness to youth in juvenile detention and a secure residential alcohol and drug treatment unit for teens. Its work in detention began as a result of Portland's Reclaiming Futures initiative.


You may also be interested in Addiction, Recovery, and Yoga, a documentary video (broken up into bite-sized chapters). Although focused on adults and specifically on integrating yoga with 12-step programming, it may offer ideas on ways to integrate yoga into adolescent treatment programs in your area.  (Hat tip to Paul Savery for both links.)
Juvenile Justice Reform - News

  • The Village Voice has a lengthy profile of Gladys Carrión, Commissioner of New York's Office of Children and Family Services, the inspiring juvenile justice reformer who's trying to fix New York's broken juvenile justice system. As the Voice observes, "...what makes her so unusual is that it's hard to remember any government official who so ardently wanted to put herself out of a job: She is systematically dismantling significant parts of the state agency that she oversees."  (H/t to @policy4results.)

Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Trainings -- and a Cautionary Tale

  • The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) will conduct two special courses for judges in Reno, NV (hat tip to OJJDP):
  • Are you a child welfare manager? Apply now to attend a five-day course in New York, "Advanced Analytics for Child Welfare Managers." Scheduled for November 8-12, 2010, it'll be hosted by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and other partners. The goal is to help administrators "become critical users and consumers of child welfare administrative data as a means toward making continuous quality improvements in their organizations." Tuition, room costs, and most meals are covered; participants only have to pay for travel and three meals. Applications are due September 16, 2010; only sixteen slots are available.
  • A profile and case history of a six-year-old boy in The New York Times describes the risks of prescribing antipsychotic drugs to very young children where there's no research to show they're effective.  It also cites studies we cited here last year that show that children in foster care are medicated at higher rates than other children, and that kids in low-income families are four times as likely to be medicated as other children.


Updated: February 08 2018