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Back in the late 1970s, Phoenix High School opened in Montgomery County, Maryland, and was the first high school specifically for adolescents with substance abuse problems. Of course, the 70s and 80s were considered major times of risk for drug abuse, and the school was open until four years ago. However, the current climate in both Maryland and the rest of the country, what with the raging opioid epidemic, highlights a re-emerging need.

Maryland Officials Consider Alternative High School


Maryland school officials are currently considering opening a new “recovery school” program to help teenagers with drug or alcohol problems, and to try to help them avoid settling into a life of addiction and misery. The school board is expected to discuss the issue further in coming months, while in the meantime, many advocates rally for the cause of re-opening the alternative school, or something similar. Of course, there are questions about costs, and funding/budgets, and effectiveness, but many graduates of the original Phoenix program swear that it works. The original school provided the usual high school curriculum, as well as group therapy, twelve step meetings, drug testing, peer support, and other alternative treatments and therapies. By keeping numbers of enrolled students relatively low, the school was able to give more attention to individual students, working with them and their parents to help them build a better future. More research will likely be needed to specifically evaluate the effectiveness of these programs before the school board moves on a final decision. Early studies do show, however, that relapse rates are lower for students who attend recovery schools.

Growing Need for Vulnerable Youths


Today there are 38 of these alternative “rehab” high schools across the country, with anywhere from 20-45 students enrolled and a cost of $12-20,000, and more set to open in the coming months and years. In Montgomery County specifically, youth are not exempt from the havoc being wreaked by the opioid epidemic. County officials say that for youth ages 6-18, drug-related ER visits increased from 411 in 2013 to 493 in 2015, a 20% increase, and one that suggests that effort needs to be put towards helping young people to avoid and recover from substance abuse problems. As research shows, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse and experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Overactive reward systems in their developing brains, underdeveloped impulse control, a decreased vulnerability to the aversive effects of drugs and alcohol, and peer influence, all create a perfect storm of propensity to drug use and abuse, and a higher likelihood of addiction. In addition to heightened prevention efforts, programs like the Phoenix school could go a long way towards helping teens with addiction problems to “kick the habit” before it becomes a lifelong battle.

Help is Available


If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the professional staff at Serenity Acres is ready to help. Call today for your free confidential assessment, to see if inpatient treatment may be the answer you are looking for: 1-800-203-2024.