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Top 4 Principles of Young Adult Addiction Treatment

addiction treatment for young adults

In our most recent infographic, we discussed how drugs and alcohol affect adolescent brain development. As our research showed, early drug intervention is crucial to a healthy, sober life in adulthood. But how, exactly, do you get your son or daughter on that path? The answer may be young adult addiction treatment—a treatment plan suited to his or her age, his or her stage of development, and his or her needs and interests.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently published a research-based guide to addiction treatment for adolescents and young adults, mapping the key components that every young adult drug rehab facility should consider when treating a young patient. It is clear that early addiction treatment should be approached differently than drug treatment for adults over the age of 25. How? Young adult addiction treatment should comprise of:

  1. Early Intervention: Young adult addiction treatment is most successful when an individual’s substance abuse problem is identified and addressed as soon as it is discovered. Early intervention is a crucial component to the success of drug addiction treatment programs. A drug intervention does not have to wait until a substance addiction has set into the mind, body, and habits of your loved one. Teen intervention, whether it be legal, medical, or familial, can occur at any stage of drug use: even “experimentation” or isolated instances of drug use in youth can be causes of concern.

    The impact of addiction in adolescence and young adulthood can be detrimental, and while you may want to believe your son is just “going through a phase,” the truth is, his substance use will most likely lead to more drug use down the road. Research has proven it. Teens who abuse drugs or alcohol before age 18 are six and a half times more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Why? Drug abuse has long-lasting effects on the young adult brain, effects that can severely interfere not only with day-to-day functioning but also with the likelihood of treatment success. That is why precautions and treatment plans should be initiated as early as possible before an addiction has time to progress.

  2. A Customized, Personalized Treatment Plan: Successful addiction treatment for young adults entails creating treatment plans tailored to the needs of each young individual. Rehabilitation facilities should therefore enact comprehensive assessments—medical and psychological—of every client that walks through their doors. A client’s plan should first be dependent on his or her age, gender, drug of choice, level of education, and current living environment. Individual strengths, weaknesses, and stage of development need to be evaluated as well, in addition to any mental, behavioral, or physical issues the patient may be facing at the time of enrollment. Is this a teenage boy who is no longer permitted to live at his parents’ house? Is this a 20-year-old female who needs transportation to and from treatment? Are there any legal implications or obligations that the rehab center needs to be aware of? By focusing on the broader picture, on all of the individual’s needs (even those that may not directly relate to drug use), treatment professionals can better increase one’s chances of successful recovery.

    An effective drug treatment program for youth will always recognize the risk of co-occurring disorders, and effectively treat those disorders as needed. There are over 7.7 million people suffering battling both a substance use disorder and a mental illness today. Only 7.4 percent of these individuals receive the proper, integrated treatment they need for both of their conditions. This stands especially true for adolescents and young adults who abuse drugs: most often, those that develop an early addiction simultaneously suffer from other conditions including depression, anxiety, and ADHD. They also are likely to possess behavioral and conduct problems. The NIDA recommends that treatment centers for young adults, therefore, screen individuals (especially those with a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse) for psychiatric disorders and further integrate dual-diagnosis treatment as it is needed.

  3. Behavioral Therapy: Adolescents and young adults are at a separate level of development than those over ages 23-25. This is a result of biology—the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25 and the parts dedicated to decision-making, judgment, and self-control are the last to mature fully. What does this say about young adult drug treatment? Because adolescents and early young adults are not fully capable of controlling their impulses, or making the most sound, practical decisions, they are more likely to act out against adult efforts to regulate their behaviors. Many young people who abuse drugs have also been in trouble with the law or school system. Behavioral therapy, therefore, is a crucial component to any youth treatment plan. Delivered by trained clinicians and counselors, this therapy is very effective in that it identifies the root of substance abuse and further reveals areas that an individual can change. It can motivate young adults to live a drug-free life by developing: incentives for abstinence, skill sets to resist and refuse drugs, coping mechanisms for relapse triggers and cravings, and problem-solving skills. Behavioral therapy can also help young adults battling addiction replace drug use with healthier activities, as well as re-establish relationships with friends and family.
  4. Family: Family, friends, and community are integral parts of addiction treatment. These relationships are not only the backbone for the young individual going through drug treatment, but also of any successful treatment plan. Adolescents and young adults in recovery need support in and outside the rehab facility, as it is these relationships that encourage youth to see the light, the future, and their own potential once again. Addiction centers for young adults, therefore, should encourage family involvement at every step of the treatment plan. Professionals should further facilitate communication and relationships with parents, siblings, and friends to better strengthen that essential support system. 

You are necessary to your loved one’s recovery. You, along with these other elements of young adult addiction treatment, can help your son win this fight against drug addiction. Call Turnbridge today at 877-581-1793 to learn more, or to get started on a treatment plan today.