Phoenix Outdoor Wilderness Rehab for Teens Observes Link Between Recession-Related Stress and Adolescent Substance Abuse

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More teens are expressing concern over the economic crisis and turning to drugs and alcohol to escape the stress of everyday life, according to the addiction professionals at Phoenix Outdoor wilderness program.

When teens feel that life is out of control, they tend to fall back on old behaviors and coping strategies

Adults aren't the only ones feeling the sting of the economic crisis. Teens are also affected by the stress of the recession - and when teens feel stressed, the whole family is likely to suffer.

Studies show that a stressed teen is more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, struggle in school, fall in with a negative peer group, and act out at home or in school. The addiction professionals at Phoenix Outdoor, a wilderness therapy program for teens, have observed this trend in their work with adolescents struggling with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

In individual and group therapy sessions at Phoenix, more teens are expressing concerns about how the economy is impacting their families, says Shawn Farrell, the Executive Director at Phoenix Outdoor. "We used to hear a lot of teens talking about using drugs or alcohol to have fun or to fit in. Now, we hear many more teens describing substance abuse as a way to escape their problems or take a break from their worries," he explains.

Addiction is a family disease. Recent surveys by Junior Achievement show that adolescents absorb the worries of their parents, meaning the more worried a parent is about the economy, the more worried their children will be. And because children frequently follow their parents' model, as more parents turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their own stresses, their children may be more likely to follow suit.

Although millions of teens are in need of substance abuse treatment, the recession has impacted parents' ability to invest in drug rehab, wilderness programs, or therapeutic boarding schools for their teens. As a result, the staff at Phoenix Outdoor sees more severe drug abuse and more dire situations that could've been avoided had the families been able to seek treatment earlier.

More stress also translates into higher rates of relapse. "When teens feel that life is out of control, they tend to fall back on old behaviors and coping strategies," says Eric Belsterling, an adolescent therapist at Phoenix Outdoor.

"Teens are already balancing school and relationship stress, media influences, and pressures to fit in and succeed," Belsterling notes. "When you add worries about getting jobs and affording college in a difficult economy, a number of teens begin self-medicating their stresses with drugs and alcohol."

The staff at Phoenix Outdoor has also observed a trend toward greater abuse of downers like Xanax, alcohol, and benzodiazepines - a trend that Belsterling believes is a strong indication that teens are trying to cope with a great deal of stress and anxiety.

In wilderness therapy, teens learn new coping skills, prepare a relapse prevention plan, and receive follow-up support to improve their ability to handle stress without turning to drugs or alcohol. With intensive therapy provided by master's level therapists and hands-on guidance from experienced field instructors, teens with substance abuse issues learn about the disease of addiction and gain the tools they need to start on their path to recovery.

Despite the country's economic woes, life continues to move at a faster pace with teens spending the greater portion of their days instant messaging, talking on cell phones, and updating Facebook and MySpace pages. "It's hard enough for adults to step back, turn off, and reconnect with themselves. Teens need time to decompress, too," states Eric Janoski, a head field instructor at Phoenix Outdoor.

At Phoenix Outdoor, teens get that opportunity. In a simple, peaceful environment with few distractions, teens are able to take a sober inventory of their lives and re-assess who they are and where they are going. They form strong bonds with peers and staff who are in recovery themselves and can offer the type of support and understanding teens in early recovery need. Working side by side with positive role models and peers, teens overcome challenges, build self-confidence, and discover the rewards of sobriety.

"Some teens feel so discouraged by the world around them. They have no idea how much beauty is out there," says Janoski. "Once they arrive in the forests of North Carolina, they see waterfalls, trees, and wilderness all around them, which opens them up to a new way of looking at the world. The woods speak for themselves in bringing about a shift in mentality that can't be replicated anywhere else."

Phoenix Outdoor is a therapeutic wilderness program for teens ages 13-17 who are struggling with substance use and/or abuse, as well co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues. Located in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Phoenix Outdoor blends clinical assessments, wilderness therapy, the 12 Step model, and traditional therapeutic interventions to help teens realize the extent of their substance abuse problem and commit to the process of change. For more information about Phoenix Outdoor, please call (877) 305-0904 or visit

Phoenix Outdoor is a proud member of CRC Health Group, which offers the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral healthcare services in the nation. With the largest array of personalized treatment options, individuals, families, and professionals can choose the most appropriate setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management, and therapeutic education needs. CRC Health Group is deeply committed to making its services widely and easily available to those in need, while maintaining a passion for delivering the most advanced treatment available. For more information about CRC Health Group, visit or call (877) 637-6237.

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