Katherine van Wormer, professor of social work, (319) 273-6379
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing and Public Relations, (319) 273-2761
A new book co-authored by UNI Professor of Social Work Katherine van Wormer encourages the controversial harm-reduction focus when it comes to teens and substance abuse. 'That means encouraging moderate as opposed to binge drinking, for instance. Behavior that is forbidden becomes an attraction to many teens. I think adolescents should learn to drink from moderate drinkers rather than drunken peers.'
In 'Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective,' van Wormer also notes that teens who are risk-takers are likely to try drugs, but so are the very shy and inhibited ones. 'They tend to be easily led, and will often follow their peers into drug use.' Teens prone to depression often try to self-medicate, and are therefore likely to not only try illegal substances but also to use them long-term.
She says the potential for long-term physical damage as a result of drug use is high with teens. MRI scans show teens are more susceptible to the effects of drugs because their brains aren't mature, and won't be until about age 23. The book also points out that other addictions, like risk and gambling, are just as dangerous as substance abuse, and teens aren't immune. 'It's not always the substance, but the addictive tendency in the individual. Some people get addicted to everything they touch,' van Wormer says.