LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a frightening new trend: children starting to abuse drugs and alcohol more and more even before they become teenagers.

“Most kids use marijuana at age 12. Most people think it's later than that, but no it's age 12,” said Wade Greer, an adolescent social worker.

And it's not just marijuana. Youth social workers like Greer say teens are becoming addicted to alcohol, spice, or just any pills they can find in medicine cabinets.

“So once they get a tolerance and start using more and more, episodes of overdose really become very, very risky,” said Janine Dewey, Director of Adolescent Substance Use Services at Our Lady of Peace.

That's why she believed a 24-hour residential program was necessary to specifically treat adolescents with addiction. In just a few days, nine out of ten beds were filled with 12 to 18-year-olds.

“You can't wait until they're 30 years into an addiction to help them. You have to start out young,” said Greer.

Depending on each case the teens stay 20 to 60 days. During that time it's most important to be honest with them and find the underlying cause as to why they started using.

“It could be I wanted to fit in or I wasn't fitting in somewhere else and I just tried it on my own and just found this group of people,” Dewey said. “Or any kind of neglect or a abuse or anything like that and sometimes that’s the escape and then the escape becomes an addiction.”

“It's a respect thing. If you give them respect, they're going to respect you in return. If they can't trust you or respect you, they're not going to work with you,” said Greer.

As part of the treatment program they take part in different activities like gardening, equine therapy, music therapy and art therapy.

Officials say it's easier to get through to an addict at a younger age before they get set in their ways and spiral into a deeper addiction.

“The earlier we can intervene the better, and then they can have a lifelong recovery time and that path instead of lifelong using and losing all the things that are around them that are important to them,” Dewey said.

When the teens are staying at Our Lady of Peace, say officials they aren't missing out on school. They receive all their homework so they don't fall behind.

If you’re interested in the program you can call 502-451-3333 and ask for an assessment.

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