Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse (cont.)
Finding the Right Treatment for Your Teen
You can help find the right treatment for your teen and help him or her succeed during and after treatment.
- Get the right treatment. Talk with a health professional about treatment options in your area. Adult programs don't meet the needs of teens. They usually stress long-term health and relationship effects of substance abuse, which is not a concern for teens. If your teen needs to be placed in an inpatient or outpatient program, look for a program with the components he or she needs. These may include a school program or opportunities for parental involvement.
- Be involved in the treatment and aftercare program. Let your teen know that you support him or her. It may take a long time for your teen to reestablish trust, to be forgiven by you, and to forgive himself or herself.
- Get help for your family. Talk with a health professional about help for you and your family. Your family members need to know that they did not cause the disease, but that their behavior can affect the disease. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen may be very helpful for family members.
- Help establish a direction. Having a sense of direction in life is important for your teen to remain drug-free. Treatment usually includes help to identify talents and strengths. These can be used to find healthy interests, hobbies, and jobs.
Treatment for level of use
The type of treatment your teen gets will depend on how bad his or her substance problem is.
- Experimenting: If your teen has started experimenting with substances, education through a school or community program may be all he or she needs. Some schools have programs for students with alcohol and drug use problems that provide support and drug education.
- Weekly use: If your teen is abusing a substance at least weekly, some form of treatment is usually needed. It's important to pay close attention to your teen's concerns, which may be related to emotional or self-esteem problems. Find activities that your teen can substitute for substance use. Treatment helps motivate the teen to stop using substances and to learn skills to refuse drugs in the future. Family counseling should also be a part of treatment.
- Dependence on alcohol or drugs: Your teen will need treatment in a structured program and may need medical help for withdrawal symptoms. If your teen is addicted to heroin or another opiate, he or she may be referred to a methadone treatment program. These programs use the medicines methadone, buprenorphine, or antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) to help people cope with the withdrawal symptoms caused by opiate use.
- Dependence on tobacco: Your teen can get help to quit and prevent serious health problems. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Types of programs
There are several types of teen substance abuse treatment programs.
Inpatient programs are highly structured and closely supervised in a hospital or treatment center. The teen stays day and night during treatment, which normally lasts about 4 weeks. These programs usually have an aftercare program that provides support and encouragement.
- The programs provide education and individual, family, and group counseling. They are often based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
- Another type of inpatient program is the therapeutic community, which is not based in a hospital. Teens do a series of tasks with constant feedback from peers. These programs may last up to 2 years. Some teens choose to stay and work in the program after treatment.
- Wilderness challenge programs combine a wilderness experience and some form of treatment. The goal is to help troubled teens communicate better with their family, control their anger, and build healthy relationships. A variety of programs are available. Their quality varies greatly. They are expensive and tend to limit contact with parents. Talk with a health professional if you are considering sending your teen to one of these programs.
Outpatient programs range from very structured programs with psychotherapy and family therapy to drop-in centers.
- These programs require that the teen spend 8 hours or more during the day at the facility, but the teen is home at night. Day treatment programs usually have the same features (individual, group, and family counseling) as inpatient programs. But day treatment normally costs less.
- Less intensive outpatient programs are designed for young people who do not need as much time in day treatment or to be in an around-the-clock treatment center. Treatment includes one-on-one or group counseling and family therapy. Treatment in the teen's own community makes it easier for the family to be involved.
Whatever type of program you choose, it should consider teen developmental issues, such as peer pressure and the need to test limits. The treatment also needs to provide a way for your teen to continue his or her education. It may boost your teen's self-confidence and self-esteem if he or she can do even small academic tasks during treatment.
What to do if your teen relapses
Getting a teen to stop using alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs is only the first step. Substance use fills an emotional need. That need has to be found and satisfied in a healthy way for your teen to be able to stay off the substance.
Returning to substance use (having a relapse) after treatment is common. It's not considered a treatment failure. Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after treatment. Most often, teens need to go through treatment more than once and follow a long recovery process.
Your teen is less likely to relapse if:
- The treatment program motivates him or her to stop using and to learn the skills to deal with drug cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.
- Your teen can commit to being substance-free for 12 to 24 months.
- Your teen has or finds a healthy hobby or interest.
- Your teen gets treatment for other health problems he or she may have, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression or long-term depressed mood (dysthymia), post-traumatic stress disorder, or an anxiety disorder.
- Your teen is involved in an aftercare program or case management.