Michelle Porche Shared Results from Study on Adolescents in Residential Addiction Treatment Program

August 28, 2012

Some of the most common concerns about teens in adolescent romantic relationships tend to be about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or pregnancy, but research by one senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), suggests that these concerns may be overshadowing another threat that deserves consideration—the potential influence on the development of substance abuse disorders.

WCW researcher Michelle Porche, Ed.D. (right), who studies literacy and achievement for young children and adolescents, presented two papers at the 120th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in early August. Both papers described results from a study of adolescents in a residential addiction treatment program. In “Gender, Social Learning and Adversity: Factors in Adolescent Development of Substance Use Disorders," authored by Porche and Lisa R. Fortuna, M.D., MPH, M.Div., assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Department of Psychiatry, the researchers reported that socialization for boys regarding masculinity may increase susceptibility to peer pressure on substance use, while expectations about femininity may be a risk factor for girls for substance abuse disorders (SUD), particularly when strategies for control of difficult circumstances also involve cutting and disordered eating. 

Initial drug use for girls was more often through boyfriends than through peers, the researchers reported; therefore youth-based interventions may be strengthened by attention to gender socialization in romantic and peer contexts in order to foster prevention and assist in rehabilitation. Although fewer girls were in treatment compared to boys, girls’ reported substance use was higher for alcohol, opiates, and illicit prescription drugs.

Porche also co-presented “Smoking and Co-occurring Disorders: Implications for Smoking Cessation Interventions for Adolescents in Residential Addiction Treatment.” This work, authored by Fortuna; Porche; Nazmun Alam, MPH; Krista M. Douglass ’12; and Sun S. Kim, Ph.D.; was just published in the Journal of Dual Diagnosis.

The second paper focused on the importance of considering co-occurring disorders when planning smoking cessation interventions with adolescents. The team identified factors associated with smoking and predictors for smoking cessation readiness. The researchers examined the relationships of smoking with use of other drugs, psychiatric disorders, and adverse events, and found that smoking is common in adolescents seeking drug and alcohol treatment and is correlated with the onset and progression of other drug use. Increasing motivation for change and addressing the interface of nicotine, other drugs, and mental health are important for smoking cessation interventions for adolescents in residential addiction treatment settings.

This research was supported by a grant to Fortuna by the Peter F. McManus Charitable Trust for the Factors in Adolescent Development of Substance Use Disorders Study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and conducted in collaboration Porche at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Porche and Fortuna will kick off the Wellesley Centers for Women’s free fall lunchtime seminar series with “Double Standards and Differentiated Gateways: Adolescent Girls and Boys at Risk for Substance Abuse” on September 27th at Cheever House, 828 Washington Street. Details will be posted later this month on the WCW online calendar.

Scholars at the Wellesley Centers for Women undertake research and action projects that address three major areas: the social and economic status of women and girls and the advancement of their human rights both in the United States and around the globe; the education, care, and development of children and youth; and the emotional well-being of families and individuals. Learn more at the Wellesley Centers for Women website.