More U.S. Teens
Treated For Addiction
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent, Reuters
WASHINGTON, Dec 27 (Reuters) - More U.S. teens are being admitted to centers to be treated for alcohol and drug abuse, a government report released on Thursday shows.
But health officials said this could be good news -- an indication that youths are getting treated instead of being left to spiral into addiction.
The report, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA), shows that the number of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 admitted to substance abuse treatment increased by 20 percent between 1994 and 1999.
"It possibly could be a good news story. It does demonstrate that there are more adolescents aged 12 to 17 that are being admitted to treatment, seeking treatment and getting treatment," SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie said in a telephone interview.
But SAMHSA spokesman Mark Weber said other surveys, including one released earlier this month, show that teen-age drug use has at best leveled off in recent years and in some cases increased.
"From 1992 through 1997 we saw a dramatic increase in the use of marijuana among young people aged 12 to 17," he said.
Thursday's survey, which covered 1.6 million cases of adults and youths over age 12 who were admitted for treatment at a center, found that most were abusing alcohol -- 47 percent. Sixteen percent were users of opiates, mostly heroin, 14 percent used cocaine and 14 percent marijuana or hashish. More than half the patients abused more than one substance.
But for teen-agers the numbers were dramatically different. In 1994, 43 percent of teens treated for substance abuse were marijuana users. In 1999, 60 percent were.
Half of them were sent to treatment by the
courts, the report, found on the Internet at www.samhsa.gov
"While we can all be thankful that people who need help are getting it, this report shows some of the real-life consequences of marijuana use," John Walters, appointed this month as director of national drug control policy, said in a statement.
"From 1992 to 1997 we saw a dramatic increase in marijuana use among our young people," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson added in a statement.
"Our fears have become a reality and our children have not only harmed their future but have fallen victim to crime as a result of their addiction. The good news in this report is that more young people are getting help. Treatment can help them end dependence on addictive drugs."
Curie said Americans are beginning to understand that jailing drug users does not help
anyone. Providing treatment for people in need is both compassionate public policy and a sound
investment. "We are finding more and more how treatment really does work and is effective in ... helping adolescents and adults sustain recovery over
time," he added. "I think treatment is becoming more acceptable as a way of addressing the problem of substance abuse."
The report also breaks down numbers of people getting treatment by geographical area, which Weber said could help show where the problems are the greatest, and where the best drug and alcohol treatment programs are.
"The highest rates of illicit drug use tend to be in the coastal states," Weber said. "Alcohol use is higher in rural areas. There is more Midwestern and rural area abuse of alcohol."