What Effective Treatment Looks Like for Teens

Having a child with a substance abuse problem is devastating. You probably feel disappointed, helpless and scared. You are not only worried that he is ruining his life by spending all of his time getting high, but also scared that he could overdose. You know that you need to get him professional treatment for his problem, but you feel lost. What are your options? And how do you know if a treatment center or program will be able to help your teen? There are several government organizations that provide guidance. For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides resources for finding addiction treatment near you. Finding treatment options is only the first step. If you want to be sure your teen gets the treatment that will help him, you need to understand what to look for. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has put together a list of the principles of substance abuse treatment that are important for teens:

  • Treatment for your teen is important even if he is not diagnosed with addiction. Interventions before your teen becomes addicted can prevent him from struggling with addiction for the rest of his life. Even if his drug use is problematic but not yet addictive, consider seeking treatment.
  • Legal and family pressure to get treatment can be effective. It’s likely that your teen will resist getting treatment. Research has shown that treatment can work even when a teen is forced into it, whether by legal means or by pressure from family members.
  • Treatment needs to be individualized. Treatment for substance abuse is not as straightforward as for many other diseases. One size does not fit all. When shopping for treatment, make sure that the program will be tailored to your teen’s needs and that it can be flexible and changed as necessary.
  • Behavioral therapies work for teens using drugs. A trained therapist can use behavioral techniques to help your teen learn to recognize and change negative habits and to make better choices. Look for a treatment program that includes this kind of therapy.
  • Treatment programs should focus on the whole person, not just the substance abuse or addiction. Your treatment program of choice should include this philosophy, which means that it will address all of his needs, including mental health, physical health, education, skills and more.
  • Family should be involved in treatment. Your teen doesn’t live in a vacuum. He is surrounded by people who influence him, and family is the most important. His treatment program should include family participation.
  • Aftercare and monitoring of substance use is crucial. Your teen should be in treatment for an appropriate length of time to help him make real changes. And treatment should not be the end of it. Aftercare is important in helping him stay the course and readjust to life without substances. Monitoring his substance use after treatment is also necessary and may mean using random drug testing. If he relapses, he needs to go back to treatment. It is not unusual for anyone of any age to need more than one round of treatment.

Finding the right drug or alcohol treatment program for your teen is so important in getting him sober and healthy. The points outlined above are based on years of solid research on treating teens with substance use disorders. Use them as guidelines for finding effective treatment, but also rely on the advice of professionals you trust, such as your pediatrician or family doctor. The most important thing is that you get him treatment. Without it, he could be facing a lifelong battle.

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