Teen Program Aimed at Helping Peers Get Off Drugs 

Teen Program Aimed at Helping Peers Get Off Drugs 
Posted by FoM on December 31, 1999 at 12:51:12 PT
By Associated Press
Source: Boston Globe
Peer pressure is often blamed for influencing teen-agers to abuse drugs and alcohol. But substance abuse counselors are hoping the same pressure can help teens stop. Teen Recovery, which is believed to be the only support group of its kind in the state, is open to the community and run by teens who are in recovery for their peers who want to kick addictions. 
''All the research shows that kids respond better when they share experiences, challenge, advise and defend each other,'' counselor and creator Gerard Pepin said. Pepin was frustrated for years as he watched the number of teen addicts steadily increase in the state. He called the launching of Teen Recovery ''an act of desperation.'' ''This is what's been missing,'' he said. Participation in group counseling paired with individual counseling, consistent discipline and having parents as role models give teens a better chance at getting away and staying away from drugs and alcohol. The weekly meetings at the Hammond Street Congregational Church help teens communicate without feeling they have to mask their feelings and ideas, said Mike Dunphy, 15, one of the teens who helped organize the group. ''It gives us time without adults, a chance to be ourselves,'' he said. ''It's easy for us to connect with each other we know all about withdrawal, we've all been there, done that. I really think this is going to help me stay clean.'' Alcohol and marijuana use is higher than the national average in Maine, according to data compiled by Robert Q. Dana of the University of Maines Center for Students and Community Life. About 86 percent of Maine students in the 10th through 12th grades have used alcohol, compared with a national average of 79 percent. About 50 percent of 10th through 12th graders have used marijuana, compared with 45 percent nationally, according to Dana's figures. But traditional treatment programs are not always effective for teen-agers, Pepin said. ''Adults telling kids not to do drugs is a challenge that invites rebellion,'' Pepin said. Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs in elementary schools are good for kids enrolled in them, but some fall by the wayside as that exposure stops, he added. Meanwhile, teens don't get much satisfaction from Alcoholics Anonymous or other adults groups because they cater more to adults' needs. ''Kids dont face the same consequences adults do they have a hard time relating to the long years in prison or the loss of job and spouse,'' Pepin said. Pat Kimball, a clinician with Acadia Hospital's outpatient treatment program for teens and an advisor with Teen Recovery, said kids are short-term thinkers who believe they will not end up in the situations the adults describe. Other advisers are from Hampden Academy, Wellspring, Waba-naki Mental Health and the Treatment Works and Resource Group. Teen Recovery allows teens to talk freely about their unique problems without adults present, though advisors are nearby in case they need assistance. Though there is some concern that teens in the program who still use drugs and alcohol could drag down other teens, most said the opposite is true. ''If I had been able to talk with someone like myself, I'd know that (getting clean) can be done and I'd work harder,'' Elliot said. Published: December 31, 1999 Copyright 1999 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. 
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