12-Steps Help Teens
New evidence suggests that working a 12-step program can offer substance abusing teens a better chance.
Though it's not the kind of click they'd normally hang out with, teenagers with substance abuse issues may benefit from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), according to researchers. The new study—published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research—involved 127 teens (95 males, 32 females, aged 14 to 19), who were put in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. The youngsters were assessed when they began treatment at three, six, and then 12 months later. "We found that about one-quarter to one-third of the youth attended AA/NA throughout the year-long study period following treatment, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomes—particularly attending meetings at least once per week or more," said John F. Kelly, associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Many 12-step programs are easily available but research had never looked at how successful they are for teens in particular. According to Kelly, counselors, doctors, and health professionals can encourage teens to attend and participate in AA/NA early in their substance abuse treatment to maximize the benefits. "Starting an on-site NA or AA young persons' meeting is another good idea. Not all youth will be motivated to attend, but the more severely substance-involved ones will be more likely to give meetings a try and these are the ones most likely to benefit."