Understanding Adolescent Addiction Treatment

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Perhaps one of the most devastating things that a parent or caregiver can face is learning that his or her child has become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Upon such a discovery, caregivers often feel as though they are to blame; that something they did or did not do provoked the adolescent in their care to turn to the use of substances. However, this thought process will not benefit the adolescent in need. Any sense of blame must be removed, both from the caregiver and from the adolescent him- or herself. The presence of blame can taint the young person’s ability to successfully recover, so it must become a non-issue.

Tragically, the use of drugs and alcohol has become a widespread problem throughout American culture. Many parents and caregivers are not surprised at the prevalent use of drugs like marijuana and alcohol that have tainted the culture of youth, but what they may find surprising is the fact that young people have access to a wealth of additional substances. Prescription painkillers (e.g. Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.), prescription stimulants (e.g. Adderall, Ritalin, etc.), prescription benzodiazepines (e.g. Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, etc.), heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine may all be available for youth to experiment with. And while the initial experimentation may be done as an act of innocent curiosity, the outcome of that curiosity can be devastating.

If you discover that your child or an adolescent in your care has become addicted to any type of substance, it is imperative that you intervene immediately. The earlier that he or she gets help, the more positive the outcomes will likely be.

There are a number of programs available for adolescents who are struggling with the abuse of drugs or alcohol. Such programs offer therapeutic interventions that are catered specifically to the population of young people, taking into account their stages in life and the factors that impact them that are different than those that typically impact adults.

The following are examples of treatment options available to adolescents:

  • Detoxification

Any time that an individual is suffering from a long-standing problem with substance abuse, he or she must first have those substances removed from their bodies. Detoxification, or detox, is a medically monitored process in which any toxic substances are physiologically removed from a person’s system. Regardless of the person’s age, this is an essential first step for many in the process of recovery.

  • Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is an intensive form of care that is commonly used to provide stabilization, treat acute cases, and minimize crises. Most of the time, detoxification services will take place in an inpatient setting. Once detox is completed, adolescents may remain in inpatient care for a brief period of time until they are deemed stable enough to move on to another level of care.

  • Residential Treatment

Many young people can benefit from taking part in residential treatment. This setting allows adolescents to be removed from the temptations and triggers of their everyday lives and instead spend their time in a therapeutic environment where their sole responsibility is to work on becoming well again. Residential programs that treat youth often have an educational component incorporated into the overall program milieu so that young people do not fall behind academically while taking part in treatment.

  • Wilderness Programs

Wilderness programs offer a unique approach to the treatment of substance abuse and addiction, as well as co-occurring mental health and behavioral concerns. Adolescents who engage in wilderness treatment programs have the advantage of learning new skills for recovery while spending time in nature, affording them the opportunity to experience healing of their bodies, minds, and spirits.

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are an option for treatment that allows young people to engage in daily clinical programming that adheres to a strict schedule of therapeutic interventions. The majority of PHPs will also provide an educational component to programming so that adolescents are able to stay on top of their academic work while still receiving the treatment that they need to overcome their addictions.

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs

As a slightly less rigorous treatment option than PHP, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) provide youth with the ability to take part in a highly structured therapeutic setting on an ongoing basis, yet for lesser chunks of time than they would in PHP. For example, young people may engage in a few hours of programming a couple of days each week, while still being able to attend school and maintain other responsibilities.

  • Traditional Outpatient Services

Traditional outpatient services may be a beneficial continuing care option for youth who have completed more formal and more intensive treatment programs. This type of treatment may consist of meeting with a therapist once a week or once every other week to discuss any concerns that young people may have as they readjust to home life. This can also serve to hold them accountable for their actions and to help them progress in their overall recovery.

Regardless of the type of treatment option that a young person engages in, ensuring that his or her family is involved is of the utmost importance. If your adolescent is battling an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, the best thing that you can do for him or her is to get him or her the care that he or she so desperately needs. Yet, your responsibility does not end there. Being an active part of your adolescent’s recovery process is key in helping him or her to not only achieve recovery, but to remain on the path of sobriety. Work with your adolescent’s treatment team, learn about addiction, and discover ways that you can best be of support to him or her.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, or any other person who cares about an adolescent’s future, it is important that you be knowledgeable about how to prevent teen drug abuse. It can be hard to imagine that an adolescent you love could end up on the dangerous path of substance abuse and addiction. But chances are, your child will be faced with the decision of whether or not to experiment with drugs or alcohol at some point during their adolescence. As parents and caregivers, you should take it upon yourselves to teach your children that the answer should always be “no.”

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