Can Recovery High Schools Help Teens Remain Sober?

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Those daunting days of dealing with hormonal teenagers, mundane teachers, and inescapable peer pressure make up a crude retrospective of high school adolescence for most people. But the rise of recovery high schools is creating a different experience for sober adolescents, according to ABC News. 

The concept of recovery high schools for teens battling addictions is not a new phenomenon. Since 1979, these schools have existed to protect teenagers fresh out of drug treatment from drug dealers and illicit substance abuse. These schools are taking the treatment approach to recovery and merging it with education. Throughout the day, the students participate in instructional learning and then engage with one another and their instructors, who may also be in recovery, in group and individual counseling sessions. Some of these students may have 12-hour days at a recovery high school.

The recent spike in recovery high schools has been a part of the national response to the rise in opioid addictions, which is threatening Americans ages 18 to 24 the most, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ABC News article, “Recovery Schools for Addicted Teens on the Rise.”           

Today, 36 recovery high schools are giving students—who would have otherwise wind up imprisoned, homeless, or dead—the opportunity to graduate clean. Seven new schools are being built in states, such as Florida, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington. And state-based grants or private funding are supporting many of these schools, despite the two-year tenure of most sober high schools.          

With a new perspective of the dangerous epidemic of opioid addictions, many educators are hopeful these schools will continue to grow and support teens with a high risk of relapse.           

In the ABC News article, Paul Moberg, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Public Health Institution, said the best way to keep the doors open to these schools is through education and health care.           

Though healthcare companies and Congress have yet to respond to the demand of recovery high schools, students who attend these schools, in exclusivity from their enablers, say they are on a much better educational track.          

Eighteen-year-old Preston Grundy struggled with drinking, marijuana, Adderall, and cocaine since he was age 14, and after getting sent to a Minnesota teen treatment program, he relapsed upon his return to his old high school.           

“I needed a safer environment. I needed an environment where I could guarantee I wouldn’t be offered drugs,” he said in the article about his transfer to PEASE Academy, a sober high school in Minneapolis.

Why Choose Recovery High Schools?

Teenagers who struggle with substance abuse are often susceptible to their old habits once they reenter schools or an environment that fostered their addiction. According to Terry Gorski, an expert on substance abuse, mental health, violence, and crime, 78 percent of adolescents relapse within their first six months of recovery.           

Gorski reported that adolescents have higher chances of relapse than adults because of three mental and behavioral factors: adolescent substance use disorder, normal problems with adolescent development, and adolescent mental disorders.          

Since adolescents may not recognize their substance abuse problem as fast as adults do, they may not seek treatment until their addictions have worsened. Gorski contributes this notion to the psychosocial factors of sexual and physical abuse, dysfunctional family relationships, and parental abuse of substances.           

By the time an adolescent enters treatment, their chemical dependency is also masking other mental health or environmental issues. This is why treatment and recovery for teenagers are so important; the line between recovery and relapse is fragile for teens trying to comprehend the maze of their adolescence.           

In a world where drug use is part of a surreal lifestyle glamorized by pop culture, the effects of its popularity are growing among teens.           

In a radio interview done byVirginia Currents producer, Catherine Komp, teenagers at a new recovery high school in Virginia spoke about their recent history with drug abuse.           

Chris, a 15-year-old student who is in recovery from drug abuse, is one of the nine students enrolled in Recovery High School. Struggling with an opioid addiction, Chris, whose last name was left out in the interview, decided to enter the program and abandon his former environment of perpetual drug abuse with friends.           

“There’s only so many close relationships you can get in the whole drug scene, but I was close with a lot of people, and they would give me drugs for free…It was when I started doing that stuff and feeling awful weeks after and my brain was not there, that’s when I really just kind of surrendered to the program,” Chris said in the interview.           

Stas Novitsky started Recovery High School at the McShin Foundation in January 2016. He is the director of youth and family development—he is also in recovery from a past drug addiction. So far, Novitsky has grown the school from one to nine students, with only two relapses.           

Novitsky credits the eagerness of his students to remainsober in the safe environment provided by the school.           

“It’s very tough for youth to give up their friends because they think that’s all they have, and they think everyone is doing it,” he said. “So by taking them outside of that and giving them a safe space at our facility where they can do their instructional work, they can do recovery groups, they can learn life skills, job skills, everything—we create a better community for everyone involved.”           

The recent spotlight on recovery high schools is giving teenagers new options for a chance at sobriety in a safe haven of supporters and educators. These schools appeal to the pathos of many therapeutic treatment programs: remaining sober takes one step at a time and full participation in the recovery community.

The Stats on Teenage Drug Abuse           

In a June 2016 survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 12th-graders reported an alcohol prominence of 58.2 percent and a marijuana prominence of 34.9 percent.             

The survey also showed that despite the prevalence of opioid addictions, the use of prescription pills and heroin is starting to lower for high school students. But frequent marijuana use is on the rise. Almost 7 percent of eighth-graders, 15 percent of 10th-graders, and 21 percent of 12th-graders admitted to smoking in the past month.           

According to DrugFreeWorld, every day 2,500 youths (ages 12 to 17) in the US abuse a prescription pain pill for the first time.           

According to DoSomething, 60 percent of teenagers who abuse prescription drugs get them free from friends and family members.           

The organization also cited that by the eighth-grade, 28 percent of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15 percent have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5 percent have used marijuana. Also, about 50 percent of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine at least once or twice, and 40 percent believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.              

In a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the drug patterns of teenagers after a treatment program and enrolled in a recovery high school were recorded. According to NCBI, the students reported a mean of 28.5 days abstinent in the 90 days before entering the school, after a drug treatment program. When entered into the school, the students reported an average of 266 days abstinent or 82 percent of all days since they entered the school. There were also significant decreases in binge drinking, cannabis, and the use of other drugs.

Seeking Treatment           

If you are struggling with adolescent addiction, then a teen rehab center is the right option. Depending on the severity of the addiction, extensive detox and rehab programs are recommended for those with a problematic drug addiction. Modern facilities are community-oriented and focus on the benefits of the client, therefore, teen centers offer young adults the best oasis for their addiction and recovery care.          

Although recovery high schools are sparse throughout the country, teenagers can still enroll in recovery programs that model the community of these high schools. If there is a recovery high school in the vicinity, then you should consider changing your environment once you complete a rehab program. For more information about recovery and treatment, call our 24-7 specialists today at 844-557-8575.

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