Helping Others Can Help Teens Beat Their Own Addictions

A new study has found that teenagers recovering from drug and alcohol problems who actively help others that are struggling with addiction are much less likely to fall back into drug use themselves. This new altruistic form of treatment, tied closely to the 12 step program, has had great success in preventing relapse.

A study has shown that youngsters who are being treated for substance addiction find helping others in similar situations helps them reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol which is known to be the a predominant factor in relapse. The study was carried out at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine by professor of psychiatry Maria Pagano.



The study involved 195 substance addicted teenage offenders that actively took park in helping others going though the 12-step program. It was shown that their participation in helping significantly improved their own treatment outcome. Full details of the study have been published in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Dr. Pagano said, "Our findings indicate that service participation in 12-step programs can reduce the craving symptoms experienced by adolescents in treatment for alcohol and or drug addiction, similarly, we found that substance-dependent adolescents with greater religious backgrounds participate more during treatment in 12-step programs of recovery, which leads to better health outcomes."

93 teenage boys and 102 girls aged between 14 and 18 took part in the study which was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The vast majority of the youngsters were cannabis users and dependent (92%) with many of them (60%) using alcohol at the same time. Those involved were given an in-depth interview ten days into the study and then later two months down the line when the study had finished.  The conclusion was reached by using urine screens, craving symptoms and clinical findings.

Dr. Pagano concluded that helping others improved four out of seven outcomes for the youngsters involved and said, "Because helping encourages altruistic behaviours, youths entering treatment with greater meaning may have an easier time engaging in service in 12-step programs of recovery," and went on to explain "In turn, youth entering treatment with no purpose may require greater 12-step facilitation or a different approach to derive equal benefit from treatment."

Teenage addiction has risen significantly over the past ten years and we live in a society where treatment options are scarce with most of medications that tend to work the best for drugs and alcohol dependancy are not suitable for those under age. Any studies that show a way to encourage youngsters to stay away from drugs and alcohol are welcomed.

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