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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Meeting addresses substance abuse by women

A town hall held Thursday addressed substance abuse by young women and examined current obstacles, factors and community needs for treatment.

Active since 1979, the UA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) hosted Call to Action: A Town Hall Discussion of Adolescent Substance Use and Recovery at the Tucson Marriott University Park.

Sally Stevens, executive director of Southwest Institute for Research on Women, said Tucson has a lack of treatment resources in general, but specifically for adolescent girls.

“Substance-abusing adolescent girls are a hidden population,” Stevens said. “They tend to run away, live with older men, and are able to hide from the law.”

Unlike most boys with a history of substance abuse, girls are less likely to commit major crimes and are not typically the ones dealing substances. Boys, on the other hand, are less likely to find refuge in a stranger’s home, and causing crime makes them visible to receive treatment as they go through the criminal justice system.

Kaleena Huggins, a graduate student studying public health, said SIROW is focusing on adolescents because the onset of mental health issues and substance abuse occurs during adolescence, and treatment is usually geared toward adults, leaving only about one-sixteenth of adolescents who actually receive the treatment they need.

Bridget Ruiz, an associate research professor, said the poor economy is also a big factor as to why treatment for adolescents is so scarce. She said to further a vicious cycle, the poor economy and rising unemployment rates often lead to a higher percentage of substance abuse in families as a way of coping — when parents start abusing, children often follow as a result of the “trickle-down effect.”

According to Huggins, a major goal of the meeting was to bring people to recognize that a community approach is the most effective.
“Everyone in our community has some stake in issues of substance abuse and treatment,” she said.

Stevens encouraged anyone in the UA community to attend the event, and emphasized the importance of the UA’s community support and awareness, in particularly with adolescents.

“Families and youths themselves are a big part of the solution,” Stevens said. “Our main goal is to really get the word out about the lack of gender specific treatment for adolescent girls.” Although resources and treatment recovery centers are scarce, Bridget said SIROW is always looking for new opportunities to offer recovery services, and hopes the meeting generated interest in the issue of treating adolescent girls.

“We need to come together and analyze what are the needs right now, and what can each of us do to encourage and promote treatment and recovery in the long term,” Huggins said.

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