The adolescent years can be a tumultuous time and young people that experience issues with drugs or mental illness may struggle to find the type of support that they need to escape the vicious cycle of substance abuse. Even after receiving treatment and returning to school, many kids are faced with the same temptations and are in the same environment that leads them right back down the same path. Many high school kids also end up going into the juvenile delinquent system which can be a traumatic experience that unfortunately penalizes young people with behavioral health challenges and even mental illnesses.
A recent study in 2012 showed that substance use disorders led about 157,000 high school students to receive treatment for drug or alcohol problems and drug use is now the leading cause of accidental death among youth. With the many difficulties young people are experiencing, programs known as Recovery High Schools are helping to provide a more supportive environment for students dealing with addiction and/or mental illness.
A Supportive Environment for Recovery
Because peer influence is such a major factor in teen drug and alcohol use, many young people end up relapsing even after completing treatment. They are sent back to their old schools and are among their old friends and negative influences that make it difficult to effectively manage their recovery. Teens need community-based resources that will support them in their recovery journey. Recovery High Schools are designed to support teens that are experiencing substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders and the challenges associated with recovery in their age-group.
They provide young people with an academic and therapeutic environment in their own community which will give them an opportunity to sustain their recovery, develop positive peer relationships, continue in their education and grow in their new recovery identity. These kinds of schools are an effective way for high school kids to get the support they need to succeed in recovery rather than continuing to struggle with addiction.
Expanding Sober Schools in More Communities
Sober high schools have been very successful for most teens that need a place to recover from both substance abuse and mental illness in a safe and supportive environment. Unfortunately these types of programs are not available in every city and some existing sober schools can have barriers preventing more kids in need from having access to this important resource. Schools are often small with a limited budget that is stretched by having kids chip in and clean up or empty trash cans. But the concept of recovery schools is an effective one that could prove to be a critical opportunity for troubled teens if the programs were expanded and more schools were opened in cities across the country.
At a normal high school kids are often punished by their peers for making the good decision to become sober. Returning to school after completing recovery treatment is a red flag to bullies who will taunt them for not joining in on their drug or alcohol use. Teens find it difficult to stand up to social pressures and when they have no option to avoid these influences they can end up relapsing. Teens need the extra support of the counselors, psychiatrists and other sober peers that are available at all times at a recovery high school.
There is a strong need for more sober schools and more financial support to fund these kinds of programs so that high school kids can have the chance to escape the negative environment that led to their addiction. The sober schools available now have changed many kids lives, but more larger scale schools could be a huge opportunity to improve communities through helping troubled youth.