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      Zero Tolerance Policies Encourage Teen Drug Use

      Teen Drug UseNew research published in the American Journal of Public Health compared high school drug policies in Washington State to those in Victoria, Australia. While high schools across America take a firm zero-tolerance approach to teen drug use, Australia opts for less extreme approaches. Teen drug users who were caught in Washington schools were twice as likely to have police involved and 50 percent more likely to be expelled. Australian teen drug users received less severe punishment, such as being referred to a counselor.

      The research concluded that zero-tolerance drug policies were associated with:

      • 1.6 times increase in likelihood to use marijuana the following year
      • 60 percent increase in drug use during school
      • Disengagement from school
      • Delinquency and anti-social behavior
      • Increased use of cigarettes and alcohol

      Teenagers are notorious for rebelling against authority. Even if they have no personal desire to experiment with drugs, the idea that it is forbidden appeals to their desire for freedom and autonomy.

      So what can be done to decrease teen drug use?

      In order to protect our youth, drug and alcohol use must be prohibited on school campuses. However, requiring teens to not attend school through suspension or expulsion does not actually teach the students anything.

      “Drug education motivated by fear and lacking in credibility weakens young people’s confidence in law enforcement, parents, teachers and other adults.” – Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD, director emerita of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance

      Teen drug users need to be provided with education, intervention and counseling

      Trails Carolina encourages teens toward reform through:

      • Active participation in rules and regulations
      • Education on harmful effects of drugs, emotionally and physically
      • Increasing self-confidence and autonomy
      • Building positive relationships with family and peers
      • Effective coping mechanisms for stress and expressing independence

      By using supportive personal, group and family therapy, integrated with wilderness activities, troubled teens transform their attitudes and behaviors. They begin to take responsibility for their decisions and understand how their decisions effect themselves and others.

      To learn more about handling teen drug use, call us today at 800-975-7303.


      Graham Shannonhouse

      A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13 Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.

      All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse

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