National Geographic : 1989 Jan
WITH AN URGENCY born of emotional turmoil, young people flail their arms in hopes of being called on during a group therapy session in Stough ton, Massachusetts, near Boston. Their stories vary, but the 125 mostly middle-class youths share a common element: a chemical dependency that brought them to Straight, Inc., a private, no nonsense drug rehabilitation pro gram. At group sessions they tell of their anger toward their parents, the urge to run from responsibility, the pain of trying to share their emotions with others, and the diffi culty of even admitting to having a drug problem. Most of the youths were intro duced to drugs by schoolmates or other friends, who often remained their chief suppliers. Designed for those in their early teens through early 20s, the state-licensed pro gram isolates clients from outside influences during the initial treat ment phase. A newcomer is pro hibited from receiving mail or phone calls and must live with the family of another youth involved in a later stage of treatment. Some graduates stay on as paid "peer staff," assisting the profes sional staff of psychologists and drug-abuse counselors. Straight views dependence on alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs as a family, rather than an individual, problem. Separate sessions for parents are held on the theme of chemical depen dency as a "family disease." Joint meetings between youths and parents often result in emo tional reconciliations (left). Since 1984 the percentage of Straight's clients admitting to cocaine use has risen from about 25 to more than 75 percent. Cocaine is also a major factor in the 111 percent increase in admissions to state-supported treatment facilities in the U. S. during the past two years.