Twelve-step programs can be extremely helpful for teens who are struggling with addiction or who are on the road to becoming addicted, but they are more useful if they are adapted to the particular needs of adolescents, according to an expert on teenage addiction.
“These programs were developed for adults, and teenagers are not little adults—they are in a totally different developmental stage,” says Steven Jaffe, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Emory University, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta.
Dr. Jaffe, who has spent the past 25 years working to modify 12-step programs to make them developmentally meaningful for teenagers, spoke about his work at the recent American Society of Addiction Medicine conference. “These programs are free, they’re everywhere, they provide big brothers and sisters as sponsors, and they offer recovering friends,” he notes. “That’s really important, because if teens go back to their friends who use drugs or alcohol, they will start using again, too.”
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