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Adventure helps boy beat alcohol problem

15-year-old who woke each morning wanting a drink has sobered up after therapy involving mountain biking and abseiling.

The boy who spent eight months on a Christchurch City Mission adventure therapy course agreed to speak to The Press after an Otago University study into the care of young people with alcohol and drug problems. The researchers called for urgent improvements in diagnosis and treatment of youth.

Christchurch City Mission alcohol and drug counsellor Michelle Holden said there were many services for young people but they were not well-co-ordinated and some interventions were ineffective.

She said adventure-therapy courses run in conjunction with Waipuna Trust had proved to be a great tool for helping young people.

Youngsters would go out in groups once a week for activities like abseiling or mountainbiking, and talk about substance abuse.

“We have seen the most change in kids involved in these groups, rather than one-on-one therapy which is more of an adult thing,” she said.

“We’re helping them believe in themselves and other ways to have fun and they go ahead and make a lot of change from that.”

The 15-year-old was referred for help by his school which had been on the point of expelling him for skipping classes. He had been staying away from school to drink and smoke cannabis during the day and drank heavily at the weekends.

The boy, who cannot be named, said he never thought he had a problem with alcohol but was just a young guy having fun.

He said there were “heaps” of young people with similar problems, but they were not getting help.

The adventure-therapy courses made him realise he was the only one who could change his life.

“I have to put in some effort; it’s opened up my eyes a bit,” he said.

From waking up every morning wanting a drink or smoke, he now attends all his classes and only drinks every couple of weekends at parties.

Holden said lower-decile schools tended to be better at dealing with the problem while some “richer” schools said they did not need her services because their students had no issues.

Most young people she dealt with were not clinically dependent, but met the criteria for substance abuse and were at risk of becoming addicted.

“They crave it; there’s a sense of urgency. It’s all they do, all they think about; it’s what their offending is about,” she said.

source: Stuff NZ

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