Therapy for addiction
What support is there to help people get out of addiction? The child and juvenile psychiatric clinic of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen Lippe (LWL) organised a symposium on 21 June entitled “Addiction therapy with juveniles and young adults” for specialists in counselling and youth welfare, doctors and therapists on its premises in Hamm. “Beside the information switching it is an important goal that the approach places in the addiction assistance system network themselves mutually well , explain Dr. Moritz Noack, senior physician in the department for addiction therapy, LWL university clinic Hamm. Around 50 participants took the opportunity to inform themselves and take a guided tour of the wards. In the afternoon, workshops were offered in which the offers of the hospital school and the work training workshop were presented.
In a conversation with Dr. Noack we would like to inform you about addiction problems in adolescents, the conditions for successful addiction therapy and the offers of the LWL-Universitätsklinik Hamm.
Dr. Noack, what drugs are currently used by adolescents and young adults?
The substances most commonly consumed are alcohol and nicotine, which are not easily available for all ages, but are the most readily available in society. Cannabis is also the most common illegal drug used. Nowadays, drugs are often used to be active at parties, to have positive experiences of drug intoxication, but also to reduce stress and conflict: This is why relaxing drugs such as cannabis, nicotine and alcohol, but also stimulants such as amphetamines (speed) and ecstasy, are the most popular. Other drugs such as cocaine and heroin play a rare role among adolescents nowadays. A smaller group is also experimenting with various chemical and herbal drugs.
At what age do young people come into contact with these drugs?
That depends very much on how available the legal and illegal substances are. Nationwide surveys of the population show that alcohol and nicotine are tried out at the age of 14 and that the first experiences with cannabis are made at the age of 16. The handling of alcohol and nicotine is often first learned in the family. Using cannabis as an example, trying out illegal drugs is now often part of the development in adolescence.
Of course, this does not apply to all drugs, above all because 80% of young people who use cannabis do not try any other illegal drugs. However, a small subgroup is also at risk of further drug use, social and psychological harm and addiction. This group of adolescents usually starts to consume alcohol, nicotine and drugs much earlier. For these adolescents there are counselling and therapy services such as the “Drug-Out” programme at the LWL University Clinic Hamm.
As a parent, how do I recognise that my child needs treatment?
The most likely scenario is when the child withdraws, changes his or her personality and has difficulties with his or her family, school or circle of friends. However, these changes are often gradual and drug use is concealed. Then it is only gradually possible to find out.
It is difficult to address drug use openly in the family – but it is important to discuss mutual expectations and boundaries between parents and children. If this is no longer possible, help and advice from an external body is often necessary. A need for treatment usually arises much later, when persistent harmful patterns of consumption or addiction diseases have already developed.
To whom can affected persons or their parents turn?
There are many different contact persons in the help system. Addiction counselling centres are specifically geared to drug use. Educational counselling centres and youth welfare services also deal a lot with the subject or can pass it on. There are also increasingly counselling and prevention services on the Internet (www.drugcom.de, www.elternberatung-sucht.de). Counselling services are later followed by outpatient or mostly inpatient addiction-specific treatment, as in our clinic. It is important that the contact points in the addiction help system network each other well. This is one of the reasons why we organise the information event “Addiction therapy” every year at the LWL University Clinic Hamm.
What does a treatment look like?
Inpatient addiction therapy is necessary for those patients who can no longer produce abstinence at home. The first steps are a withdrawal treatment and the gradual development of a drug-free everyday life in the clinic. The patients also learn to develop alternative everyday life, stress and conflict strategies for the many situations in which the drugs were previously used.
Will many young people be able to get out of their addiction?
The success of counselling and programs for troubled teens varies and depends not only on the young person’s motivation but also on the support of their parents, family, friends and other helpers. In general, however, it can be said that the earlier counselling and therapy can be started, the more likely it is that a harmful phase of drug use or addiction can be interrupted in a positive course. This usually makes it easier to stop using drugs.
What is important for a successful exit?
Frequently, there have been some points in favour of withdrawing from drug use for quite some time. Nevertheless, many affected people do not manage to stop using drugs on their own. Here, support from friends, family, addiction counsellors and treatment staff is necessary. If those affected really succeed in seeing harmful drug use as a completed phase in their own lives, there will be more capacity for a new beginning.