Teens shortchanged on addiction treatment

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Adolescents are significantly less likely to receive treatment for substance abuse problems than adults, and when they do receive these services, they may not be receiving care designed especially for them.

That's the take home message from University of Kentucky researchers who looked at a random sample of addiction programs from around the country. Results showed only about 10 percent of teens needing help were getting it from these facilities. Other findings included:

  • Among programs accepting teens, only a small number scored high in all nine quality domains measured by the research, such as encouraging families to be involved in the treatment program or offering comprehensive services.
  • Higher quality was noted in programs offering more intensive services, such as residential or inpatient treatment.
  • Seventy percent of programs accepting teens were offered on an outpatient basis only.
  • Programs relying heavily on government funding, and those based in hospitals, were less likely to accept adolescents.
  • Larger treatment programs, and those accredited by health care organizations, were more likely to accept teens.
  • Some programs mix teens and adults, something health experts say can undermine treatment for kids because kids and adults have such different needs.

"Despite the public health significance of adolescent substance abuse and the knowledge that treatment can be effective for this group, services for them are less available than for adults," study author Hannah Knudsen, Ph.D., was quoted as saying. "It means we lose our chance at early intervention, and that families may be unable to find services for their children in their communities."

SOURCE: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, published online March 2, 2009

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