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Private Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Programs Shown Effective for Treating Teen Substance Abuse.

Aspen Education Group Participates in Landmark Study of Adolescent Treatment

CERRITOS, Calif., Feb. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Teens struggling with substance abuse report reduced frequency of use and a greater inclination to work on the emotional or social issues that trigger their behavior following treatment in a licensed, high-quality outdoor behavioral healthcare (OBH) program, a new study says. The independent research study was conducted by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative (OBHRC) at the University of Minnesota as part of ongoing outcomes study research and was designed to determine to what degree outdoor behavioral healthcare program students change over the course of treatment and to what degree they maintain these changes after leaving the program. This study is the nation's first large-scale study to specifically address the effectiveness of OBH programs in treating teen substance use issues.

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Outdoor behavioral healthcare serves as an effective alternative to traditional treatments by integrating intensive clinical interventions; therapeutic assessment and treatment; and experiential learning in a safe, wilderness environment. Aspen Achievement Academy, a program of Aspen Education Group, is one of five participating programs in this groundbreaking new study.

Findings showed that the majority of participating teens with serious or significant substance use issues who previously were rated as "passive" about or "reluctant" to address problem behaviors became "actively interested" in working on or overcoming the issues triggering their substance use after attending an outdoor behavioral healthcare program. Other findings included significant reductions in symptoms of pre-existing depression, anxiety, and stress after attending a program.

"The study demonstrates that state-licensed and nationally accredited private outdoor behavioral health programs can positively inspire or motivate adolescents to actively think about why they use or abuse drugs or alcohol," said lead researcher Keith C. Russell, Ph.D., who directs the OBHRC. "While we acknowledge that there is no overnight cure for substance abuse, these programs can provide an important first step for adolescents to address and overcome the often serious emotional and behavioral issues underlying their actions."

"A recent survey from the Department of Health and Human Services notes that fewer than 10 percent of the 1.4 million teens aged 12-17 who needed treatment for illicit drug use received it and that only 7 percent of the 1.5 million teens in need of alcohol treatment received it," said Elliot Sainer, president of Aspen Education Group. "Aspen Education Group is dedicated to providing these teens and their families with the most comprehensive and effective evidence-based treatment available, as documented by independent research. Aspen is a long-standing industry leader in outcomes research, and we are proud to participate with other high-quality outdoor behavioral health programs in this new OBHRC study."

The study was composed of 872 adolescents ages 13-17 diagnosed with a substance use issue (75.2 percent), both a substance use and mental health issue (50 percent), or only a mental health issue (20 percent). Prior to participation in the program, 44 percent of teens demonstrated no willingness to address the issues that triggered their substance abuse, 30 percent were reluctant to take action, and 28 percent were actively trying to address problems important to their well-being. Average treatment length for participants was approximately 45 days. At discharge from the program, 90 percent of the students had shifted to actively addressing problems that triggered their substance use.

At a six-month follow-up interval, participants reported significant reductions in the frequency of substance use, especially among those who were admitted to residential aftercare programs. Students who originally reported the most severe symptoms showed the greatest improvement. In terms of treatment satisfaction, 67 percent of the teens participating in the study said they would recommend an outdoor behavioral healthcare program to a friend in trouble and 58 percent stated their problems were much improved.

The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative, based at the University of Minnesota, was established in 1999 to conduct rigorous evaluative research for outdoor treatment programs to improve industry safety, delivery and outcomes. Aspen Achievement Academy has been a participant in the Cooperative's ongoing research and evaluation since its inception.

Aspen Education Group is recognized nationwide as the leading provider of education programs for struggling or underachieving young people. With over 30 programs in 12 states and the United Kingdom, Aspen provides to students and families a comprehensive range of therapeutic interventions, including wilderness therapy, boarding schools, residential treatment, and weight-loss programs. Aspen's success in helping young people overcome substance abuse has been documented and featured in international media, including the United States' nationally syndicated "Dr. Phil," A&E Television Network's documentary series "INTERVENTION(TM)," and in the United Kingdom on ITV's "Britain's Youngest Boozers." Aspen is a division of CRC Health Group, the nation's largest chemical dependency and related behavioral health organization. For more information about Aspen, please visit or call 888-972-7736.

For more information about the OBHRC study, contact Dr. Russell at 612-626-4280 or at The complete study can be found at:

CONTACT: Amy Sandler of Aspen Education Group,, +1-562-468-4479; or Keith C. Russell, Ph.D., of Outdoor Education and Youth Development, University of Minnesota,, +1-612-626-4280

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Date:Feb 12, 2007
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