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Group Drug Therapy Can Be Counterproductive for Teens

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Group addiction treatment can actually lead to more drug use by teens if they are casual users placed in sessions with more experienced addicts, Time magazine reported July 16.

“Just putting kids in group therapy actually promotes greater drug use,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

“I've known kids who have gone into inpatient treatment and met other users. After treatment, they meet up with them and explore new drugs and become more seriously involved in drug use,” added Tom Dishion, director of research at the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon.

Some treatment programs also may weaken the bonds between adolescents and their families, which also can increase the risk of drug use. Plus, teens may view 12-step programs' emphasis on being powerless over drugs as defeatist rather than a call for abstinence and mutual support.

On the other hand, research has shown that more troubled youth can benefit by associating with better-adjusted teens.

Individual and family therapy have been shown to be effective with teens, but group therapy is more common because it is less expensive. NIDA is currently working to ensure that more teens receive such evidence-based treatment.

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