Teens with substance abuse issues have specialized needs when seeking help for a drug or alcohol issue. They need to get the right type of care, and placing them in a program where adults are being treated may not be the right approach.
Does the Teen Have a Drug Problem?
Some of the signs that point to an issue with drugs may be simply be part of the normal part of a young person trying to figure out who they are and establishing an identity independent of their parents. Some of the signs of drug abuse (changes in clothing styles, making new friends, being irritable) can be indications of independence, while others (becoming withdrawn, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating) can point to a mental health issue like depression that needs to be investigated. Often, teens with substance abuse problems also have co-occurring disorders that need to be examined and possibly treated as well.
Start with an Assessment
To determine the seriousness of the issue, a thorough assessment of the teen should be conducted by the rehab center once the facility is chosen. The staff should have experience treating clients between the ages of 12-18, as well as determining whether the adolescent is also dealing with any mental health issues that need to be addressed along with the addiction.
It’s not uncommon for someone to start using drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating to treat their symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses. A young person may not understand what is happening to them or know how to get help, and using a substance may give them some relief for a time.
Treatment Plan Recommendation
The results of the assessment will determine an appropriate treatment plan for the teen. Some young people will benefit from going to an inpatient program where they can focus completely on their recovery, while others would do well attending an outpatient program where they can continue to attend school and return home at the end of the day. It is not uncommon for young people to not respond well to outpatient treatment if they are continually subjected to the same pressures and influences, so a residential setting may be necessary even if the level of use may not immediately indicate such.
Teens Should Have Specialized Treatment Programs
No matter which treatment model is chosen for a teen with a drug or alcohol issue, it’s important that they be placed in a program that does not include adults. In a group therapy session, it would be very difficult to get a teen to open up and talk in front of people who are older than themselves and who they don’t feel they have very much in common with. In order to get well, a teen client would be much better served by being among their peers, dealing with more relatable issues.
Staff working with teen clients should make a point of showing empathy when asking them to share their experiences, instead of trying to get them to break down and admit guilt over the things they have done as a result of their addiction. The goal should be on building self-esteem and showing young people that they can have a bright future without resorting to substances as a coping mechanism.