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Adolescents that experiment with drugs and alcohol are putting themselves at increased risk for developing an addiction by the time they reach adulthood. The timing can be critical, given that many individuals make career choices and may even begin a family in early adulthood. A recent study examined the reasons that teens use substances, and different treatment strategies.

The Study On Teen Drug Abuse And Its Findings

The participants for the study were enrolled through a private substance use disorder treatment facility located in the northeastern United States. From 109 teens that met criteria for the research the participants were 82 percent male, 87.2 percent white and had an average age of 16.6 years; 17 were seeking treatment for alcohol-related problems, 76 for problems with another substance and 16 needed treatment for both alcohol and another substance. The participants were asked to state the primary reason for their substance use and their responses were used to create two classifications: enhancement or coping reasons.

The participants were enrolled in a 12-week program that included 12-step strategies, cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy. The participants completed an assessment at the beginning of the study and then at three, six and 12 months after treatment began. The researchers used the information to better understand how enhancement versus coping reasons affected the percentage of days abstinent at baseline, and then at each follow-up point.

Approximately half of the participants (47 percent) reported that they used substances for enhancement. Fifty-three percent reported using substances as a coping treatment. The average percentage of days abstinent was significantly lower for the coping group at the three and six month follow-up points. At baseline and at the one-year follow-up, the differences in average percentage of days abstinent were not significant.

The authors note several potential limitations on the study’s findings: the participants were recruited from a single treatment location; during recruitment the teens were asked about their motivation for using with prepared options, and the lack of open-ended questions may have influenced how the participants responded; the researchers didn’t analyze how their substance of choice might impact response to treatment (e.g. reasons for use may be a combination of enhancement and coping, instead of being solely one cause or the other).

The findings demonstrate that those teens that used substances for coping reasons responded more favorably to treatment when compared to teens that used substances for enhancement reasons. The differences were insignificant by twelve months, however, possibly indicating that more research is necessary to determine how to help patients retain the improvements gained by treatment.

The findings support additional study in the areas of targeted and individualized treatment strategies for teens using alcohol and other substances. Along with risk factors for prevention strategies, it may be important to better understand the motivation to use in order to provide the best possible treatment options.