Pubdate: Thu, 14 Nov 2002
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Julie Sevrens Lyons


When San Jose high school principal Jacklyn Guevara was offered a chance to 
enroll some of her students as guinea pigs for a novel online drug and 
alcohol treatment program, she jumped at it. Guevara has only three drug 
counselors on her staff. And drug programs for youths are notoriously 

An Internet service that employs techno music, chat rooms, interactive 
features, videos and real-time counseling to help teens beat their habit? 
That sounded terrific. Where do I sign Foothill High School up, she asked?

After all, Guevara estimates about three-fourths of the 2,500 students in 
her alternative education district are addicted -- or nearly addicted -- to 
ecstasy, crack cocaine, LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs. In her 43 years 
in the education field, nothing, she says, has ever truly made a dent in 
the rampant rates.

``We're desperate for everything and anything that's out there,'' said 
Guevara, executive director of the East Side Union High School District and 
principal of seven of the district's schools. ``What we're doing hasn't 

Internet site was launched for teens nationwide 
Wednesday. It's still too early to tell whether the high-tech treatment 
program will boost recovery rates among teens, historically one of the most 
difficult groups of addicts to treat. The two pilot programs, including 
Foothill's, were just completed this year, and program coordinators don't 
yet have long-term success rates they can point to.

But addiction experts, including former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who 
is known for his tough anti-drug stance, said Wednesday they are optimistic 
that the service will speak to at least some of the 11 percent of 12- to 
17-year-olds who admit to being steady drug users.

The Internet program does not replace traditional detox programs, but 
serves as an out-patient counseling service. The hook here is in the 
technology, which provides computer-savvy teens an anonymous, easily 
accessible and less expensive route to drug treatment.

With its flashy, interactive images and age-appropriate videos and music, 
the site -- launched by San Jose-based CRC Health Corp. -- might be more 
palatable to the MTV generation than more traditional programs, McCaffrey 
said. ``It's a tool to keep teens in recovery, to keep them engaged.''

McCaffrey admits that an online drug treatment program such as this one 
won't work for every teen. ``This isn't like bandaging a leg,'' McCaffrey said.

In a 2001 survey of more than 70,000 people, the U.S. Department of Health 
and Human Services found that 10.8 percent of youths between the ages of 12 
and 17 were drug users. Additionally, about 28.5 percent of people ages 12 
to 20 admitted they drank alcohol. About 6 percent of teens surveyed said 
they were heavy drinkers.

McCaffrey estimates that about 1 million teens are drug addicts. So it 
shouldn't be surprising that public health officials and educators are 
thankful for any new method of drug counseling that might reach teens.

The program, which costs $1,200 for 24 counseling sessions 
held over three months, is being praised because it provides youths wary of 
standing up at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with the chance to discuss 
their problem in the privacy of their own home. It links youths to chat 
rooms where peers going through treatment discuss their issues. And it can 
be more entertaining than traditional counseling sessions, said Dr. Mike 
Mikesell, a school psychologist in Hillsboro, Ore., whose district served 
as the other pilot program.
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The program is available to individuals, not just school 
districts, with a drug or alcohol problem. Parental permission is required. 
For additional information, call (866) 435-7999, toll-free.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart