Drug rehabilitation is a serious challenge for anyone.
This is especially true for teenagers.
Whether you are a teen looking for treatment or a parent looking to help your child, the information on this list should help you determine what steps to take next for recovery.
1.) Not all treatment programs are safe or effective.
There is no FDA or large governing agencies that regulate behavioral treatment therapies and programs for drug abuse. Because of this many drug programs have no evidence or research to prove the effectiveness or safety of their programs. Many parents are misled into enrolling their children in unhealthy clinics and find that their child returned home worse off than before they reached out for help.
To combat this danger, a website was created by the Partnership at Drugfree.org. This website intends to guide parents and teens towards effective treatment.
2.) Just because a treatment is labeled “therapeutic” does not necessarily mean it’s a good choice.
Some of the worst and least effective drug treatment programs out there have the most convincing descriptions of their program.
One treatment center employee, who now works for A START — the Alliance for Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate Residential Treatment – recalls working for a “therapeutic” rehab center for kids and teens who’s practices turned out to be downright abusive.
Don’t be fooled. Do your research.
3.) Be sure that there really is a drug problem present.
Being able to appropriately assess whether a teens behavior is exploratory or unhealthy is a difficult but extremely important thing to discern.
A large amount of treatment programs out there will have teens admit that they have a drug problem. Because of this it is very important for you to be sure that there really is an addiction present. For instance, some programs push heavily on patients’ denial about being addicted. So once someone is placed in treatment, then, anything they say can be seen as evidence of their problem. Even if it’s denial.
4.) Before treatment assess for mental illnesses like depression, which could be driving drug abuse.
A large portion of teens who have drug abuse problems experience additional psychiatric problems that were at the root of the drug use. If there are severe underlying mental issues that are left on the back burner then a drug treatment program might not be enough to resolve the substance abuse issue at its roots.
A teen might need a more direct but less intensive route for treatment in certain cases before they can handle a treatment center.
5.) It’s important to find a program that is specifically designed for teens.
Some programs simply throw teens in with adult patients.
This poses multiple age specific topic risks, including:
- emotional problems
- sexual problems
- simple discomfort
- inability to open up or express with older invididuals
6.) Be sure the chosen program is tailored to specific drug dependency levels.
A dangerous rehabilitation risk is when mild drug users comes in contact with heavy drug abusers in a treatment setting.
Many times teenagers with only minimal experience with drugs have picked up much harder drug use tendencies by being surrounded by heavy users glorifying their experiences with a variety of drugs.
7.) Staff must be trained to deal with teens. Make sure this is the case.
Teens have highly specific needs for drug treatment. There are many developmental stages that a drug rehabilitation aid must be cognizant of and able to address in a professional manner.
Sometimes staff will have limited experience with rehabilitation and no experience with teens. This can cause many pitfalls because they don’t know to to adequately address the issues that come up in a teens mind.
8.) “Boot Camp” style rehabilitation programs pose many risks and in most cases should be avoided.
Boot camps, “emotional growth boarding schools” and some wilderness programs have caused thousands of reports of abuse and neglect according to the Government Accountability Office.
They are unregulated on the federal level and are not considered as adequate care for addiction by the ASAM. The boot camp style of program can be very harsh and traumatizing. Some wilderness programs are also under fire for being neglectful and unhelpful.
Many programs that emphasize wilderness therapy can be very helpful, but one must have discernment over which program to enroll in.
9.) Question the desire for punitive style rehabilitation for your teens.
Despite the criticism, some parents would still like their teens to go through a punitive, authoritarian style rehabilitation to make up for what they’ve put their family through.
While this may seem appealing to some, there is growing psychological and neurobiological evidence that humans, especially teenagers, respond better to positivity and reward-based incentives for change rather than shame, guilt and punishment.
10.) Research the positive therapeutic styles which are gaining ground in the rehabilitation scene.
Evidence based therapeutic techniques like family-based treatments, cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy are gaining ground as powerfully effective remedies to all kinds of addiction and disorders.
See if there’s any programs near you.
11.) Consider a dual-diagnosis assessment.
Duel-diagnosis investigates the need for treatment of substance use disorders as well as secondary mood disorders or other mental health issue.
This can be very important for deeply challenged teens. A lot goes into an active drug addiction, and some treatments by themselves may only scratch the surface of the problem.
12.) Be involved with the recovery process of your teen.
Family involvement in the rehabilitation process is extremely important for teens.
Research has shown this to be true.
“In a 2003 paper, Jose Szapocznik, chair of the epidemiology and public-health department at the University of Miami, found that teens who used marijuana but still had healthy relationships with their families saw those relationships deteriorate — and their drug habits increase — when they were assigned to peer-therapy groups. Among these teens, who were in treatment for a minimum of four weeks, 17% reduced their marijuana habit, but 50% ended up smoking more. “In group, the risk of getting worse was much greater than the opportunity for getting better,” Szapocznik says, adding that in contrast, 57% of teens who were assigned to family therapy showed a significant decrease in drug use, while 19% used more.”
13.) Be cautious of programs the emphasize the 12-step recovery model.
The 12-step program – first adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous – utilizes a recovery model that focuses on surrendering your will to a higher power.
The first step of the 12 program encourages participants to accept the idea that they, themselves, are “powerless” to their addiction, and that they must surrender their will to a higher force to be helped.
Some people swear by this method. They stay abstinent for decades and go to weekly meetings to support others. But for others (especially teenagers) this emphasis on powerlessness can create a feeling of defeat and depression. The 12-step teachings tell you that you are doomed to your addiction; that it is a “disease” that you will always have and that surrender to something outside of you is the only way out.
“Indeed, surrender is not a word that comes easily to teens, and teaching them to believe they are powerless may create a fatalism that leads to relapse, according to Andrew Morral, a senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. In his studies of teens treated at Phoenix House, one of the largest treatment providers in the U.S., he found that participants who subscribed to the tenet of powerlessness were more likely to return to drugs after treatment, compared with teenagers who did not take the message to heart.” -Time Health
14.) Strongly consider non-group setting rehabilitation
Research evidence has shown that the most effective drug treatments for teens have been in non-group settings. This is especially so for individuals who drug habits haven’t evolved in including hard substances.
Many teens have found that overcoming a marijuana or alcohol habit was easier with a single therapist rather than joining a group that requires them to be labeled as a cut and dry alcoholic or a drug addict.
15.) When considering rehab for a teen also address addictions in the rest of the family
Our children are extremely susceptible to how parents or family members model behavior.
As a parent, if you or your spouse is experiencing addictive tendencies with controlled substances it becomes unreasonable to ask your child to address their own by themselves.
Recovery should be a group effort if it’s a family wide issue.
16.) Seek to understand as much as you can about your teens relationship to drugs.
Approach your teen in a non judgmental but intensely curious manner.
Be open to their point of view. Let them speak their mind.
Watch for subconscious cues, including body language. Don’t press the topic too hard if you see intense discomfort. Wait a little while before bringing it up again.
17.) Discuss the long term dangers of drug use.
We all can be shortsighted at times. Especially when we are young.
It is always a good idea to remind your teen that life is a very long path. The dramas they are experiencing now in the crazy world of youth will pass with time.
A teen can more easily see the immediate effects of drug use on their health, i.e. anxiety, disconnectedness from others, failing grades. They can’t really see the long term effects unless prompted to.
When youthful one can experience more vividness and stimulation with drug use. But it is important to remind teens that the cost for this is an overall decrease in life’s overall vividness.
18.) Remind your teen that habits are easy to develop but hard to break.
Many teens who experiment with drugs are seduced by the idea that they will just give drugs a short trial.
First, when they were younger they decided to never do drugs. But as one ages and sees peers experimenting with substances that initial resistance is replaced by a curiosity to give a short trial.
Remind them that habits, especially drug habits, can sneak up and are very easy to form. And once they are there they can be incredibly hard to get rid of. Especially when they are established when one is young.
19.) Talk about important family issues.
Long standing family issues that are left unaddressed can cause a lot of distress in a young persons life.
If your family isn’t open about the difficulties it goes through, try talking it out.
Even if you’re facing insurmountable relationship issues or divorce, it’s important to discuss things. When kids have no outlet to release their stress at home, drugs become an ever more appealing stress reliever as unexpressed tensions go unaddressed.
20.) If a teen has a problem with drugs, the first step is admitting there’s an issue.
Admitting there is something amiss is absolutely the first step of any healing process.
In the 12 step program this acknowledgement is followed by a proclamation of helplessness, but this step is not entirely necessary.
Admitting there’s an issue can foster emotional strength. It can be an empowering lesson that one can own up to their shortcomings and face them head on with personal strength.
Remember to show love and care when helping a teen who’s hurting. Be there with love and they will appreciate you far more than a cold and demanding approach.