Treatment Options for Youth Diagnosed with Substance Addictions

In this article, weexplore just what substances teens use. Then, we look at the direct interventions that can save your teen’s life

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and experimentation and unfortunately for most teens, this means experimenting with alcohol and drugs. While some teens don’t end up addicted after their first few encounters, plenty of others do… leading to a lifelong struggle.
Here, we’ll explore just what substances teens use. Then, we look at the direct interventions that can save your teen’s life. Finally, we invite your questions at the end.


Common Substance Addictions Teens Face

1. Marijuana. Marijuana or weed remains hugely popular among teens with 45% of 12th graders reporting having used it at some point in their lives. [1] Most teens don’t consider marijuana addictive or harmful, explaining its popularity. [2]

2. Alcohol. Alcohol is perhaps the most readily available and widely consumed substance among US teens. According to the 2017 Monitor The Future survey, up to 61.5% of 12th graders and 42.2% of 10th graders have taken alcohol at least once. [3]

3. Opioids. Prescription drugs are alarmingly easily available to teens with most obtaining them right in their home’s medicine cabinets. Common opioids abused by teens include codeine, Vicodin and OxyContin.

4. Study aid drugs. Study drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta are regularly misused by students in a bid to boost their grades. [4] These drugs sharpen focus and heighten attention spans, making it possible for teens to concentrate for longer periods. Unfortunately, they’re also highly addictive.

5. Hallucinogens. Teens usually experiment with hallucinogens for fun and to “expand the mind” but before long, they’re hooked. Hallucinogens such as LSD, Salvia and magic mushrooms like psilocybin have seen a resurgence in teen use in recent years.

Rehabs Offer the Best Treatment

The signs of drug use and addiction vary with individuals and the substances used. It’s therefore recommended that parents know what signs to watch out for in their teens since early detection of illicit drug use might improve treatment outcomes. [5]

When it comes to treatment options, teen drug rehabilitation programs offer the best chance for teens to beat their addictions. As of 2015, there were more than 14,500 substance abuse treatment centers across the U.S. but only less than 10% of addicted teens are enrolled in these centers. This means that most of those who desperately need help aren’t receiving it.

Even among those who access rehabs, full recovery from addiction isn’t completely guaranteed and about 40-60% of addicts eventually relapse. To parents, this might seem like failure and a futile endeavor. Why take my teen to rehab if they might start using again?

However, it’s important for parents to remember that addiction causes extensive damage mentally, physically and psychologically and is a tough habit to beat, especially for teens who are still growing.

If your teen relapses that doesn’t mean that the rehab process failed. It simply means that treatment has to be reinstated with a few tweaks and adjustments. Most of all, parents should remember that taking their teens to rehab gives them a shot at regaining their lives.

Available Treatment Options

There are two main types of rehabs:

1. Outpatient rehab. This gives teens daily, part-time support so they don’t have to commit to residency. They arrive at the rehab center for appointments, therapy sessions then they’re free to return home. Outpatient rehabs are ideal for teens who don’t require constant supervision and those who don’t mind daily commutes.

2. Inpatient rehab. These rehabs have proven hugely successful in helping teens fight addiction, especially when it’s become a deeply entrenched habit that significantly affects a teen’s life. The most common types of inpatient rehabs are residential treatment centers for teens where they enroll for a period of time, receiving full support to help overcome their addiction. One of the reasons inpatient rehabs are so effective is because teens are removed from the influence of the environment that led to their addiction.

The Rehab Treatment Process

Once your teen is admitted to rehab, they undergo a complete diagnosis then receive a custom treatment plan according to their addiction. The treatment program will likely include a variation of these addiction treatment modalities:

1. Detox

Detoxification is the body’s way of flushing out drugs or alcohol so that your teen can start healing. [6]  This is a natural process that takes anywhere between a few days and weeks depending on your teen’s individual situation.
Since they’re in rehab, they’ll receive full professional care and assistance to make the detox and withdrawal process as comfortable as possible.

2. Therapy

Teens in rehab take part in different therapies depending on their addiction and situation. Common ones include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy. Usually done in individual sessions, this type of therapy seeks to uncover the thought patterns that drive a teen’s addiction and seek to reshape them. Teens learn how to develop strategies to help avoid high-risk situations as well as communication, problem-solving, coping and self-regulation skills.

Family Therapy. Families influence most of a teen’s behaviors and beliefs and play a huge role both in developing and overcoming addiction. Family therapy, therefore, brings together those who are closest to the addicted teen in a bid to help them address underlying issues that caused the addiction in the first place. Families learn constructive ways of communicating, solving problems and bonding.

Group Therapy. Participating in group therapy allows teens to share and draw strength from others who are going through similar issues. They learn more about themselves and the group can act as a support system and sounding board.

Recreational Therapy. Most teens with a substance addiction end up so focused on feeding their addictions that they miss out on a huge part of their lives. Recreational therapy helps teens engage in leisure activities including sports, games, arts and crafts, helping them rediscover an enjoyable part of their life. Additionally, they get to improve their social skills by interacting with other teens in a healthy way while building positive personal traits.

3. Medication

Getting over an addiction sometimes requires the use of medication to restore normal health, reduce cravings or treat any underlying psychiatric disorders. Given the strong nature of some of these medicines, they should only be taken under strict medical supervision to avoid creating a new addiction.

Helping Your Teen to Stay Clean

It’s normal for parents to worry about helping their teens stay clean once they come home from rehab. One of the key components of successful rehabilitation is having an aftercare plan to prevent relapse. [7] A 12-step program like the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be invaluable in providing your teen with the guidance and support they need to stay clean. Scheduling one-on-one counseling for your teen can also help them stay on course with their recovery.

It can be daunting to discover that your teen has a substance addiction but getting them the right treatment goes a long way towards helping them not only beat the addiction but also get their lives back on track.

Reference Sources: [1] Addiction Blog: Trends in Popular Drugs Among Teens
[2] NIDA: Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends
[3] NIDA: Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs
[4] Drug Abuse: History and Statistics of “Study Drugs”
[5] Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience: Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenager
[6] Addiction Blog: What is drug detox and how does it work?
[7] Addiction Blog: The 3 Secrets of Successful Addiction Rehabilitation
About the author
Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.
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