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Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children | Long-Term Risks of Teen Alcohol Use

Talk therapy and medicine together worked better for unhealthy fears than either alone in a recent study of young people. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Children's mental health was the subject of two recent studies. One involved treatment of anxiety disorders, the other examined long-term effects of alcohol use in teenagers.

The first study involved about five hundred children in the United States, ages seven to seventeen. They had moderate to severe disorders involving worries and fears.

For treatment, one group received Zoloft, an antidepressant drug. Another group received cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes called the talking treatment. Therapists taught the children about anxiety and guided them through structured tasks to help them face their fears.

A third group received both the medicine and the therapy.

John Walkup at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Maryland was the lead author. He says the study clearly showed that combination treatment was the most effective. Eighty-one percent of the children treated with both medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy improved.

But Doctor Walkup says the medicine or therapy alone also showed good results. Sixty percent of the therapy-only group improved, as did fifty-five percent of the Zoloft-only group.

For comparison, a fourth group received a placebo. The children took sugar pills thinking it was medicine. Twenty-four percent of them also improved.

The National Institute of Mental Health paid for the study. The New England Journal of Medicine published it.

The alcohol study appeared in the journal Psychological Science. The lead researcher was Candice Odgers of the University of California, Irvine. She used records from a major health study of one thousand people born in New Zealand in the early nineteen seventies.

She found that people who experiment with alcohol before they are fifteen are more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs. This was true even in teens with no family history of drug dependence. They are also more likely to have behavior problems, fail in school, commit crimes and get pregnant at a young age.

Just this week, a Rand Corporation study in the journal Pediatrics linked sexual content on television shows to teen pregnancy. Girls and boys who watch a lot of it were twice as likely as others to be involved in a pregnancy over the following three years.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, go to I'm Steve Ember.