Youth addictions, what are the signs that families must not overlook

Youth addictions, what are the signs that families must not overlook

OfChiara Daina

To prevent the use of substances, gaming and the web in adolescence from leading to pathological addiction in adulthood, it is essential to promote early interventions in younger people. Here are the active services in the area and what they offer

Addiction Services under 25which in some cases are located in structures separate from the Serds for adults and in others are located within the Serds themselves (with dedicated spaces and time slots), are designed to prevent the use of substances, gaming and the web in adolescence lead to one pathological addiction in adulthood. To access these services you don’t pay anything and you can book at the counter, on the phone or by email.

Services for very young people and minors

Paola Coppin, medical psychotherapist, is responsible for the early diagnosis and treatment service of the Santi Paolo e Carlo Asst of Milan aimed at young people between 14 and 24 years old, active in the 4 territorial Serds of the company, every afternoon from 1.30pm to 5-6pm: «Children can arrive spontaneously, without needing parental authorization, or upon notification from the school, social services, the emergency room or the doctor, or as happens most of the time accompanied by family members. We also just give advice to parents who feel helpless, guiding them in their relationship with their child.” The service, born in 2013, has between 150-180 new requests a year. The widespread team is made up of psychotherapists, educators, social workers and nurses. “We deal with problematic use of substances and alcohol and risky behaviors related to gambling, online betting and excessive use of video games. The inconveniences associated with emotional dependence are treated by the Department of Neuropsychiatry, those of food addiction by specific centers for food disorders – clarifies Coppin -. The children we assist mainly use cannabinoids, stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, new psychoactive substances, LSD and ketamine. Polyabuse, that is, combined uses of psychoactive substances, narcotics and alcohol, often occurs. There is no such thing as a pure alcoholic kid.”

How does the assistance process work?

How does the assistance process work? «At the first interview we ask the young person what his relationship is with his mother, father, siblings, peers, how he goes at school, what he likes to do and whether he dedicates time to his interests. We evaluate his personal resources and the positive opportunities he has, to transform them into drug avoidance strategies or alternatives to betting and online video games – explains Coppin -. We offer him a test to become aware of the discomforts that push him towards consumption and those behaviors, so that he can question himself. If he needs it, a course of psychotherapy is started. Another option is to compile a daily diary on consumption or online activities, on the connected sensations and on what happens, in order to change habits. But for the help intervention to be effective it must be done for the whole family. This is why we offer the possibility of family therapiesin order to improve communication with the child and strengthen bonds, and group meetings with other parents”.

Recognize the signs

When to contact the service? «If there are sudden ones mood swings, excesses of anger, agitation, decline in concentration and performance in class, daytime drowsiness, drastic interruption of a sport or other activities that they were previously passionate about, irregular school attendance, reduced relationships with friends and increased requests for money unjustified – replies Coppin –. The duration of the course is short, from 3 months to approximately 1 year. Medicines may be prescribed with parental authorization. Thanks to the collaboration with the private social sector, the boy can also take advantage of recreational activities, including volunteering in the kennel.”

The communities

Sending to the community occurs when the family context is highly dysfunctional and does not allow the resumption of school and internal well-being. Androna Giovani is a place entirely reserved for children under 25, with walls painted by them, inaugurated in 2012 by the Trieste healthcare company. In 2022 it followed 242 young people, mostly male (173), of which over half (142) were new users (exceeding the 94 in 2021). «There is no waiting list, the service offers immediate listening. And to fight prejudice we decided not to call it Serd” underlines Antonina Contino, manager of the Androna centre. One of the reasons kids get here is because they’ve fallen into the trap of the illusion of easy win. «More than slot machines, kids play online sports betting, betting money up to 10 times for the same match» says Contino. Psychotherapy and psychoeducation interventions are combined with creative workshops. «We help them reactivate the imagination, the desire, the desire for protagonism, stimulating hidden potential through cooking, music, writing and theater workshops (the latter two are open to all the kids in the city, ed.), visits to museums and trips out of town” explains Contino. At the Androna space you also learn to take back interrupted projects. «They can come here to do their homework, we offer monthly scholarships of up to 450 euros to those who demonstrate that they attend lessons to encourage them to return to school, work internships of the same amount and support in finding accommodation. The Akropolis centre, in operation since 2020, and the Arca centre, since 2022, are also two services dedicated to under 25s which are part of the addictions department of the Caserta Local Health Authority. «In addition to psychological treatment, here the kids can attend music workshops, computer workshops, art therapy, a web radio and a film club. They come from families of all socio-cultural backgrounds” reports the director of the Department, Lilia Nuzzolo.

March 1, 2024


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