Recently I attended a conference in San Diego, Innovations in Recovery 2016. One of the main topics being discussed was Adolescents in Recovery and clearly from the exhibits and booths on display there was an ever present showcase of treatment centers and addiction therapy that is solely focused on this demographic. Adolescents are defined as 13-19 year olds, so it’s your basic teenager. Which they alone are a challenging and difficult demographic to study on their own, let alone adding an addicted or mental health disorder to really confuse the problem. One of the biggest issues to address is how prevalent this grouping is to living and breathing their lives on social media. This new generation is being touted as Generation Z. Move over Millenials, there’s a new kid in town.
In attending a morning keynote discussion at the Conference, the topic was, Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Emerging trends, Challenges and Solutions. This discussion focused on how difficult it is to determine adolescents being addicted or being diagnosed with ADHD, Bi-polar, depression and the like. Further on explaining that we know alcohol is dangerous and harmful – but what about pot? According to John D. Lieberman, of Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, pot is readily accessible to kids today and its being glamorized within our pop culture (i.e., Snoop Dog, Miley Cyrus, Rhianna, you get the idea). He further shared that they have these adolescents write them a letter as to why they like to smoke pot. They then read this letter to us, and their parents, and then realize how stupid it really sounds. Mind you they are clean and sober when they are in treatment, its keeping them off drugs and alcohol when they return to their normal lives that is the biggest challenge. That is why recovery really begins when someone leaves treatment. Treatment is the foundation for their recovery, and especially being a teenager you are going to have a more difficult time staying sober. It really is a One Day at a Time process.
I also attended a lecture on Building Resilience in Young Adults: Why the Family Matters, where the main topic was how the whole Family needs to be involved in recovery. More than 8 million children live with parents that are substance abusers, and these children have a much higher rate of becoming addicted - which we all know is the genetic and environmental component. The panel speaker went on to stress the importance of family based recovery and how everyone plays a part. In discussing the Millenials, she talked about how the legalization of marijuana is playing a huge part in addiction with the younger population and how crime in Colorado and California (not yet legal) has increased tremendously because of this. Clearly the legalization of pot isn’t doing anything to help our young people in living a sober life.
The one great thing this generation has is that they are armed with an amazing offering of resources, such as treatment centers and mental health professionals, that are focused solely on the Adolescent problem. Let’s hope this Generation will find sobriety sooner rather than later.