Summer Months Can be Risky for Teens & Substance Use -  CHR Offers Innovative Program to Help

June 29, 2016

While teens may be happy that schools are out for the summer, life isn't necessarily easier for parents.

"Many kids have more time on their hands in the summer. This can create a perfect storm for drug initiation and use," says Michael Asinas, LCSW, a senior program director with Community Health Resources (CHR) who coordinates an innovative treatment program for teens. He noted that data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that on an average day during June and July, more than 4,500 youth try marijuana for the first time and more than 11,000 adolescents try alcohol for the first time.

"Meanwhile, because of today's opioid crisis, teens from all walks of life have access to powerful, cheap and highly addictive drugs, and alcohol continues to pose an ongoing and dangerous threat to teens," he adds.

To help protect teens from the dangers of widely available drugs and alcohol, Asinas recommends:

  • Maintaining open, honest communication with teens: "Parents need to be very clear about the risks associated with alcohol and drug use.  At the same time, parents need to create a trusting environment so teens will talk to them rather than trying to make decisions on their own," he added.
  • Helping teens maintain a busy and constructive schedule with minimal idle time.
  • Setting a good example: avoiding alcohol and drug use and keeping any prescription medications out of reach. Teen use of prescription pain medication is believed to be a gateway to drugs like heroin.

If a parent suspects that their teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, Asinas recommends calling CHR to learn about a six-month, outpatient treatment model that incorporates individual counseling as well as personalized work on practical skills to help teens create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"The program has been very successful. It's not a cookie-cutter approach but focuses on each teen's interests and strengths and helps to them learn new ways to communicate and maintain friendships without drug use," he said. "It's very empowering and gives teens new skills that will help them throughout their lives."

Asinas noted that the program also works closely with each teen's family. "It's important for families to know how they can be helpful - and how their actions could affect the teen's challenges with substance use."

The program begins with a thorough assessment followed by three months of individual counseling sessions. The next three months focus on the development of real life, practical skills to help teens embrace healthy alternatives to drug use and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The program, known as the Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (ACRA), is available in many eastern Connecticut towns.  It is a national model that has been studied closely and has a proven record of success. To learn more, call CHR at 877-884-3571.

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