- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Lengthy residential stays in drug treatment programs result in a reduction in drug and alcohol use among teen-agers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Results of the first large-scale study looking at adolescent treatment options were released this month, showing a positive correlation between drug treatment and reduced drug use, as well as improved school performance and lowered criminal activity among teens.

"Several small-scale studies have been done, but this is the first large-scale study specifically designed for adolescents," said lead researcher Dr. Yih-Ing Hser of the University of California at Los Angeles. The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

From 1993 to 1995, the UCLA research team evaluated treatment results of 1,167 teens — 799 boys and 368 girls ages 11 to 18 — comparing the year before their treatments with the year after their treatments.

Teens who remained in treatment for three months or longer were at least one-and-a-half times more likely to abstain from drug and alcohol use after treatment and were also less likely to participate in criminal activity than those who had shorter stays in treatment, or who participated in outpatient programs.

The study was based on results from community treatment centers in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Chicago and Portland, Ore., that used either 90-day residential programs, outpatient programs or short-term inpatient programs. The short-term programs lasted 30 days or less.

All teens participating had either used or were dependent on drugs including marijuana, alcohol and cocaine. More than half were also criminally active, and 63 percent met criteria for mental disorders. One-third were high school dropouts.

For all the teens treated, marijuana use dropped from 80 percent to 43 percent. Heavy drinking dropped from 33 percent to 20 percent. Criminal activity dropped from 75 percent to 52 percent. And psychological evaluations showed teens had lower hostility, fewer suicidal thoughts and higher self-esteem following treatment.

On the other hand, treatment worsened the condition of the cocaine users, who, the study showed, increased cocaine use after release by 3 percent.

Dr. Hser attributed the increase in cocaine use to greater exposure to the drug while in treatment.

"Although are in drug treatment, they are not entirely closed off from people who may have the drug," Dr. Hser said.

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