An Overview of Teen Drug Addiction Treatment
Experimenting with drug use is often related to the period of adolescence. Parents and caregivers play a key role in the prevention and treatment of teen drug abuse. It is essential that they are informed about all the important aspects of this issue, so they can prevent it, identify it, and treat it where necessary.
What Are the Causes of Teen Drug Addiction?
There are a number of possible reasons why teens take drugs1. Many do so in order to be accepted in social circles that include drug users among their peers. Others use drugs because they want to experiment or experience an feeling of pleasure that the consumption of drugs creates.
There are also those who seek relief from depression, social anxiety, or stress-related disorders, and those who are looking for ways to improve their performance in an increasingly competitive society.
Sometimes, parents’ drug addiction may result in a situation when children also become drug users later in life. Awareness of these issues is vital because an effective teen drug addiction treatment addresses these causes in order to help a teen overcome the addiction problem.
What Problems Can Teen Substance Abuse Cause?
Evidenced consequences of long-term substance abuse include the following2:
- Severe health issues such as lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health conditions.
- Some drugs, inhalants in particular, may damage or destroy nerve cells, either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system.
- The use of opioids is extremely dangerous because it can lead to overdose and death.
- In some cases, lethal outcomes are not caused by the substance itself but another event that occurs when drugs are consumed, such as a car accident or an infection (1 in 10 registered HIV infections come from drug abuse and hepatitis C also spreads through sharing of needles and other drug equipment).3
It is therefore vital that teen drug addiction treatment starts as soon as possible. In addition to health consequences, drug abuse usually has severe effects on relationships with friends and family, as well as learning and career paths.
What Are the Five Warning Signs of Teen Substance Abuse?
The most prominent signs that indicate that an adolescent may be using substances are:4
- Frequent mood swings.
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
- Changes in physical appearance.
- Lack of interest in hobbies or friendships.
- Health symptoms such as blood-shot eyes, a frequent and unexplained bloody nose, odd smells, tremors, seizures or shakes, lack of coordination.
Teen addiction treatment should take place as soon as milder symptoms are spotted, before the teen’s health has been more severely damaged.
How Does Teen Addiction Treatment Work?
Each patient is an individual with a very specific situation in terms of the nature of their addiction. Appropriate treatment depends on the case and is prescribed by experts after a very careful examination. Teen substance abuse treatment may involve residential treatment, partial hospitalization, outpatient treatment, counseling and therapy for families, or various forms of support for the families of individuals struggling with addiction.
For most individuals affected by substance abuse, treatment begins with a period of detoxification (detox),the purpose of which is to clear the intoxicating substances from the body.
The period of intensive detox is followed by rehabilitation (rehab), in which the emphasis shifts from chemical treatment to psychological and emotional treatment. During this phase, teen addiction treatment may address the causes of addiction through services such as group therapy, individual talk therapy, family counseling, and recreational therapy.5
What Services Exist for Teen Substance Abuse
Typically, some of the teen substance abuse treatment options include the following:
- The teens who can benefit from the stability and security of 24-hour monitoring are good candidates for residential/inpatient treatment.
- Partial hospitalization combines the structure and supervision of an inpatient program with a higher degree of independence.
Outpatient treatment options for substance abuse mean that teen drug addiction treatment takes place during the day while teens return to their homes at night. This form of treatment is appropriate for teenagers who no longer need 24-hour supervision and who are fairly advanced in their recovery process.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Support your teen in overcoming the issue. Acknowledging that there is an addiction problem and solving the teen’s issues that led to addiction may change the situation for the better. However, it may happen that teens lie about their drug use. If parents are not sure, a home drug test or a consultation with a professional such as a pediatrician, addiction specialist, or psychologist can uncover the problem. The very definition of addiction by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states that prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.6In other words, teen drug addiction treatment can help your child recover from this condition as from other illnesses. A pediatrician who diagnosed the condition may recommend a treatment procedure but when choosing a treatment center, make sure you opt for the one that has experience working with teens.
- An effective teen drug addiction treatment is always tailor-made to fit the situation of a particular teen. In some cases, medication is necessary, usually in cases of opioid use or mental disorders that have led to drug abuse. In other cases, medication is not necessary, but behavioral therapy is typically the essential part of any rehabilitation process.6To overcome addiction, experts recommend that most patients go through both detoxification and behavioral therapy, which would help change the behavioral patterns that led to drug abuse. Detox should be seen as only the first step in the process. Patients are advised to continue through other stages of treatment to prevent relapse.
- Parents are always advised to talk about drugs with their children even before adolescence and explain why and how drugs can be harmful to them. If parents are informed about the effects of drugs and are willing to dedicate time to drawing their kids’ attention to this issue, this opens up space for family discussions about this topic. Children are generally less likely to get into drugs when their parents spend time with them and keep track of their activities. In case parents notice some risk factors during their children’s adolescence, such as aggressiveness, lack of self-control, or presence of drug-using peers, early intervention has a key role in preventing drug abuse.
1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). Definition of addiction.
2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Health Consequences of Drug Misuse.
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). How to recognize a substance use Disorder.
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
5. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020). What’s the relationship between drug abuse and viral infections?
6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Why do adolescents take drugs?