Outreach programs take advantage of affiliations, relationships and research provided within drug and substance abuse rehabilitation centers for the purpose of designing relevant treatment, counseling, referrals, education and proper allocation of resources towards alleviating teen and adolescent addiction. Drug and substance abuse is rampant among adolescents. Community based outreach programs are structured with an assessment and treatment programs that examine the defining behavioral and psychological issues that could have led to the drug abuse. Emotional issues comprise serious underlying factors which include depression, poor self esteem and eating impairments (for instance bulimia and anorexia nervosa) that could overwhelm individuals to the point of abusing drugs. This paper therefore explores both secular and theological counseling as an integrated approach for the intervention of teenage drug and alcohol abuse.
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Drug and alcohol abuse has become a serious problem across the world. The problem begins with the curiosity to experiment on a social drug as a result of peer influence or a wild indulgence. “At the beginning of substance abuse, an individual appears to be in control of the situation but soon loses balance becoming dependent on the drug/alcohol” (Allen& Kruzas, 2008 P. 5). Alcohol and drug abuse results in chemical dependence to the drug being abused creating a permanent disorder that corrupts an addict’s life. At this point, the addict takes more quantities of the drug in order to achieve a particular state of euphoria experienced before. Substance abuse affects the entire life of an addict. An integrated approach in counseling incorporating both the secular and Christian based interventions is therefore important in arresting teenage drug and alcohol abuse.
Persistent abuse of the drug reaches a peak where the addict is forced to seek for help. By this time, the individual could suffer from the combination of the physical, psychological and emotional complications. This is attributed to the fact that when an individual exposes his/her body to increasing quantities of the drug or alcohol, the addict’s body becomes modified physiologically. The changes in body’s chemistry results in negative repercussions characterized by inability to control urges and impulses linked to the substance being abused (Baumgartner, 2009 P. 11). Alcohol and drug addiction damage an addict’s biological state which transcends to drastic behavioral and emotional changes. According to United Methodist Church (U.S.), Board of Church and Society (1993), such changes include weight loss or gain, change in personality, mood disorders, memory loss, and impairment of normal motor skills as well as serious mental and physiological disorders.
Normal people, who do not participate in substance abuse, find motivation in life from various things. However, the addict is entirely motivated by the drug or the alcohol being experimented on. Eventually, the individual feels worthless, loses self esteem and frustrated. At this point, the addict seeks medical assistance in order to treat the condition. Some of the alcohol and drug patients become overwhelmed by the addiction succumbing to its effects. Treatment requires that the patient is counseled adequately before actual medication in order to improve the self-esteem. Since most patients suffering from alcohol and drug addiction lack self motivation to fight the addiction, they are often forced to participate in the compulsory counseling sessions and treatment programs. This is also due to the mood disorders and emotionally disturbances.
Once enrolled into the addiction therapy or counseling sessions, the addicts normally become cooperative completing the programs successfully. “The alcohol and drug abuse counseling sessions and treatment programs are applicable based on differences in addict’s personalities and therapeutic potential” (Elwood, 1999 P. 10). Programs are either short-term or long-term depending on the state of addiction by the time the patient is admitted. Long-term treatment programs are recommended because they are effective in alleviating the condition completely. It is therefore understood that the available treatment and counseling programs just set the process of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction in progress. The perfect outcome of the therapy lies in the support the addict obtains from the community.
Patients require adequate emotional support from friends and family, close supervision and an accountability person that monitors their progress during therapy. Counseling is therefore of utmost importance to the addict in view of the challenges that alcohol and drug abuse presents in their lives. Both secular and theological counseling are crucial in ensuring the successful implementation of treatment program. The counseling sessions seek to support the patient emotionally. The addict is counseled to understand that the drug’s control over their lives was not a reckless blunder but a consequence of the accompanying biological changes that modified their bodies to the extent of losing control on the drug (Schinke& Botvin, 1997 P. 15).
According to Foundation Center Staff (2009), provision of necessary resources for the treatment and the support from the community are relevant in ensuring that the addict does not undergo a relapse but emerges victorious. Teenage drug and alcohol abuse results in a higher risk for drug-related road accidents, sexual immorality, poor exam grades, juvenile delinquency as well as arrested physiological development. The drugs in question include marijuana, cocaine, heroine and other inhalants. Alcohol is easily available to teenagers as well as illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Parents who abuse alcohol and drugs risk transmitting the substances to their inborn children. Children born to parents bent on substance abuse are more likely to abuse drugs than those born in normal families. The underlying cause being the influence and motivation they obtain from their parents being their immediate role models.
“Alcohol and drug abuse arrests a teenager’s growth and development to the extent that it could distort their cognitive capacities and perceptions on important issues in life” (Friedman, 2005 P. 18). Consequently, teenagers lose interest in schooling. They find solace, humor and satisfaction from the cheap pleasures that they obtain from the drugs they are addicted to. Academic performance declines drastically due to chronic absenteeism, loss of concentration in class and ultimately dropping out of school. Substance abuse actually impairs teenagers’ cognitive capacity through brain biochemical modifications as well as physiological changes. The teenage addict is therefore rendered to the mercy of the drug being abused at the expense of important learning programs.
All the stakeholders in education should therefore ensure that alcohol and drug abuse is prevented at its onset. Discipline in schools is paramount in restricting teenage indulgence on drugs and alcohol abuse. Adolescent teenagers require the support of the parents, teachers, peers and religious leaders in order to avoid the temptation of experimenting on drugs. Guidance and counseling in schools should be adopted and implemented at personal and group level towards addressing the core reasons of substance abuse. Parents and teachers are strategically positioned to diagnose substance abuse in teenagers. “Drastic change in behavior patterns of teenagers such as desire to be alone, unexplained crying, confusion, restlessness, insomnia and lack of appetite could direct parents to an abuse problem” (McGovern& Benda, 2006 P. 20). Teachers could also note a trend to alcohol and drug abuse through a drastic decline in academic performance, absenteeism and gross indiscipline among their teenage students.
Community based outreach programs are therefore relevant in learning institutions. Professional counselors are properly trained to spearhead the agenda and purpose of the outreach programs in schools based on the needs assessment of their students because students do not just abuse alcohol and drugs out of mere indulgence and curiosity to experiment on the substances.
Risky sexual habits
It has been noted that adolescent teenagers who abuse drugs are more likely to engage in sex early in their life than teenagers abstaining from both sex and drugs. “Teenagers already addicted to alcohol and drugs are also more likely to experiment with multiple sex partners predisposing them to the threat of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, STDs as well as getting unwanted pregnancies” (Hagedorn& Juhnke, 2006 P. 13). The drugs actually lead to behavioral changes in a teenage life as a result of the chemical dependence that develops with continued abuse. Teenagers experiment on life issues due to their inexperience and challenges associated with biological puberty. At teen age, adolescents are undergoing the process of discovering their self-identity among other things. They are equally going through various biological changes within their bodies which require the support of the community in order to help them emerge as stronger adults. Community based outreach programs therefore seek to engage the society in the fight against teenage and drug abuse.
Teenagers addicted on alcohol and drugs are bound to engage in crime than nonusers. Adolescents hooked on marijuana are more likely than nonusers to steal, run away from their homes in order to join their drug gangs as well as destabilize peace and order in the society. Juvenile delinquency is therefore reported among teenagers abusing alcohol and drugs because they are no longer in control of their life. They are at the mercy of the drug which dictates their mannerisms. They are therefore bound to break the law in order to get necessary resources and opportunities to abuse their drugs. “There is need that the society is engaged in guiding teenagers towards developing rewarding personal relationships” (Bell, 2008 P. 24).
Community outreach programs also assist the teenagers establish their careers; develop a positive self image and a proper intellectual growth. This serves to help them resist the temptation of abusing drugs through a strong will, proper grooming and focus on their future careers. People living with teenagers are able to recognize behavior and appearances that could signal tendency to alcohol and drug abuse.
Screening teenage behaviors
It is possible to discover several changes in the behavior pattern of a teenager that could point towards alcohol and drug abuse. A sudden change in personality in an individual from an expected trend without a legitimate reason should be investigated professionally through counselors. Another clue lies in the teenager’s loss of interest in social activities such as sports and previous favorite hobbies. Inability to keep friends as well as reluctance to discuss about new comrades is a pointer of an alcohol-related or drug-related condition. Another strange behavior is the rapid deterioration of basic personal grooming habits consistent with nonusers of alcohol and drugs such poor hygiene. Teenagers having difficulties in focusing on important matters accompanied with chronic forgetfulness need urgent medical attention. Chances are that they are hooked on illicit drugs.
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Other behavior changes include violence, hostility, irritability and nervousness. They also exhibit utmost privacy and reluctance to respond to urgent concerns on their welfare by family or even close friends. “Screening of such behavior illustrates an orientation to drug or alcohol abuse in addition to other antisocial activities that deviate from acceptable social behavior” (Bell, 2008 P. 28). Screening requires that the nature of the drug being abused be determined in addition to the duration of use. Other parameters to be considered include the addict’s mental condition, family history of substance abuse, school performance as well as other legal challenges the teenager could be facing. A comprehensive screening program requires the involvement of health systems, juvenile justice systems, schools, vocation rehabilitation centers and religious organizations.
Adolescents detained by a juvenile justice system need screening as well as those who have dropped out of school. Other group of teenagers that should be screened includes those with peculiar sexual orientations such as bisexual, transgendered, gay and lesbian individuals (Hagedorn& Juhnke, 2006 P. 19). As a result of these sexual orientations, teenagers could be getting the motivation to engage in persistent substance abuse in order to experience higher sense of euphoria. Drug abuse could therefore be a disguise by the teenagers to escape the reality of the impaired sexuality. The same notion applies to teenagers with extreme anxiety disorders, depression and hyperactivity. This distorts their self image and personality compelling them to abuse drugs in order to justify their condition. Instead, substance abuse magnifies the conditions to their detriment. A thorough medical treatment is therefore required in order to repair the underlying complications.
A teenager’s family background plays a major role in treating alcohol and drug abuse. A history of parental or sibling substance abuse could serve as the motivation for teenage drug and alcohol abuse in future. Teenagers brought up in homes that experience rampant domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse as well as parental negligence could resort to drinking and drug abuse as a disguise to heal their wounds. Family support is therefore important in correcting the substance situation among teenagers.
A proper understanding of the basic religious values, practices, customs and ethics with respect to human culture is important in shaping teenage behavior. The Christian approach takes into account the concept of faith as a gift from God that empowers a sinner to seek forgiveness in the hope of getting reconciled to the maker through love. “Through faith, a teenage immersed into the sin of drug and alcohol abuse is able to regain back a proper conscience that is guided by the Holy Spirit towards overcoming drug addiction and its consequences fully” (Janes& Lundy, 2001 P.13). The addict’s self esteem is also restored through teachings of the Bible that provides necessary ground for recovery from the loneliness of the drug.
The theological approach in counseling teenage drug addiction adopts the virtue of love in the recovery process. Since addicts continue to abuse the drug without knowing they have lost control over the drug, it is only those close to them that realize the problem first. The addict living in a life of euphoria resorts to denial when confronted on the habit due to the low self esteem and a guilty conscience. “The faith-based intervention restores the confidence of family and friends in their teenager’s return to sobriety while it empowers the addict to overcome the habit through love and compassion” (Ferrer-Wreder, 2004 P.33). The teachings of Jesus Christ provide the basis for Christian counseling by initiating a process that destroys self-condemnation and judgment that accompanies substance abuse. The addict is also made aware of the pain and suffering family and friends are experiencing as a result of the habit. This is followed by orienting the patient with the love of God that overcomes all evil including the problem of substance once one surrenders to Jesus Christ.
It adopts a gentle approach that provides spiritual healing to the patient as well as the family suffering from the ravages of substance abuse and dependence. Chemical dependence is perceived to be an incurable disease which is fatal (Allen& Kruzas, 2008 P. 30). Christian counseling therefore believes that an integrated approach is necessary for a successful intervention on teenage drug addiction involving professional counseling and spiritual reunion with God. The condition is therefore treatable through pure faith in God that bonds the addict to Christianity as a lifestyle together with medical therapy.
The faith based approach treats addictions through the combination of Christian ethics which recognizes the role of the grace of God in restoring sanity and sobriety among drug addicts. By exhorting addicts to accept the forgiveness of God, the program helps its patients to regain hope in life, avoid living in isolation, pain and regret thereby overcoming the guilt of substance abuse. The counseling sessions are conducted in accountability groups where a counselor guides teenagers on the recovery process integrated with reflective Bible study. The process is therefore church-based and Bible-oriented.
An integrated approach
Secular counseling pursues conventional means for intervention of teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Screening of teenage behavior is carried by the combined efforts of stakeholders in the society starting with parents, siblings and friends. “Teachers, counseling psychologists, nurses and legal professionals also supplement the work of close family members and friends in identifying, screening, diagnosing and treating teenage drug abuse” (Baumgartner, 2009 P. 17). It is therefore apparent that teenagers are unable to solve the problem on their own due to the inexperience and developing faculties.
The role of secular counseling in treating substance abuse should be further augmented by a theological approach in order to obtain maximum results from the process. Substance abuse is therefore a chronic disease which is both fatal and complicated. The rationale for an integrated approach is based on the understanding that the problem affects the entire society and not just the teenage addict. Of utmost importance is the need to engage both the affected and professional persons in restoring sobriety to the teenage addict and the immediate family. An addict is therefore a burden to the society which should seek ways to offload it appropriately.
The integration of a theological approach pursues a paradigm that the situation brought about by substance abuse is beyond human control. It should therefore be reduced to manageable proportions through a faith based approach that takes into account therapeutic interventions (Elwood, 1999 P.14). God being the ultimate being should therefore be consulted through scripture and prayers in aiding teenagers recover from the slavery of sin and substance abuse. The process of evaluating their change of behavior and biological constitution should be facilitated by love which recognizes that Jesus Christ came to save the lost. Above all, the teenage addict, their peer group, family, friends and the rest of the society are individually responsible to ensure alcohol and drug abuse is not only treated but prevented from spreading.
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