Did you know that most addictions start as drug and alcohol use during adolescence? As much as we want to believe our teens are just experimenting or “going through a phase,” their early substance use can pose great health risks down the road. Approximately 90 percent of people with a substance use disorder started using before age 18. And this makes sense. During adolescence, the brain is not fully developed. When drugs are introduced during these years, the brain’s function is disrupted, its neural connections are re-wired, and a person becomes more vulnerable to the negative effects of drugs.
Yet despite the risks, people are most likely to begin abusing drugs – from alcohol and marijuana, to painkillers and amphetamines – during adolescence and young adulthood. By senior year in high school, almost 70 percent of teens will have drank alcohol, and 50 percent will have used an illicit drug. If your son or daughter has a drug or alcohol problem, know that you are not alone.
There are many treatment options for teenagers and young adults in need of rehab. As a parent, it is your job to choose the best possible path for your teen. In most cases, teens will not seek out treatment on their own. And more than likely, your teen will be resistant to the whole idea of rehab at first. For young people especially, it can be hard to recognize when a problem exists and when to call it quits.
Parents know their children best. You know, or can suspect, when a problem arises with your child (and if not, you can look for the signs listed here). You know what your young one responds to. You know what he or she will require in a treatment setting. Most of all, you know that your child is unique – he or she is not just another addiction story. And you must find a treatment center that recognizes this, as well; a rehab center that will tailor its program to the unique needs of your teen.
Where do you begin?
First, it is important to locate a drug rehab program that is solely designed for teens and young adults. This is critical to your child’s success in treatment. Simply put, adolescents and young adults have different needs than older adults battling addiction. They use drugs differently, respond to treatment differently, and require different approaches to engage them throughout the recovery process. Look for a rehab center that is focused on this primary age group, where your child can truly thrive.
Adolescents and young adults who are surrounded by peers of a similar age are more likely to engage in their drug treatment program. They tend to feel more comfortable in group meetings or counseling sessions with other, like-mind peers. They are also more likely to establish meaningful friendships with other teens and young adults in recovery, who have similar interests and experiences.
Not only this, but young adult and teen drug rehab programs are better equipped to meet the unique needs of young people, including their level of psychological development, their readiness (or lack of) to get sober, their unique interests, and any other factors that might impact recovery (such as legal troubles with the juvenile justice system, problems or projects in school, peer-pressuring friend groups, etc.). The staff at these facilities are also specifically trained in treating addiction at this age of development.
You see, adolescents and young adults are at a very critical stage of brain development. At this age, the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for assessing situations, making rational decisions, and controlling impulses – is not yet mature. In fact, this does not mature until a person’s mid-twenties, making teenagers especially susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. When a teen uses drugs and gets high, their brain (already struggling with impulse-control) begins to associate drug-taking with pleasure, and eventually hard-wires this connection so that the user will continue taking drugs to feel good. You can read more about the adolescent brain and its vulnerability to substance abuse here. Age-specific rehab centers will know how to effectively intervene a teen’s drug use, and ensure a safe recovery.
Tailored, Drug Rehab for Teens
In addition to finding an age-specific treatment program for teens, it is important to find a drug rehab that caters to each individual. As noted above, every addiction is unique. Your teen has his or her own reasons for trying drugs, for continuing to use drugs, as well as his/her own drug of choice. Your child also has unique experiences with drug use, and therefore has different needs than others in treatment.
One of the key principles of adolescent drug rehab, as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is that it is “tailored to the unique needs of the adolescent.” At the start of their program, the clinical staff should understand each teen’s strengths, weaknesses, and openness to treatment. In addition, the program should consider an adolescent’s relationships with family members, any relative cultural or ethnic factors, and any special behavioral, physical, or mental issues at play.
On top of this, the NIDA writes that “treatment should address the needs of the whole person, rather than just focusing on his or her drug use.” This involves understanding an individual’s larger life needs, such as their medical, psychological, social, and emotional needs, as well as any housing, school, transportation, and legal requirements. Failing to cater treatment to each individual’s needs can “sabotage” an adolescent’s chance at a successful recovery, which is why it is so critical to find from the very beginning. As you research potential drug rehabs for teens, ask about their values and approaches. Ask how they address teen drug use and addiction, from day 1 of treatment.
Because the fact is, drug rehab for adolescents is not one-size-fits-all. No single treatment will work for everyone, and there is no universal definition of a “successful” treatment program. Every individual has their own struggles with addiction, and as a result, every individual deserves their own, personalized treatment plan. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Whatever a person’s age, treatment is not ‘one size fits all.’ It requires taking into account the needs of the whole person—including his or her developmental stage and cognitive abilities and the influence of family, friends, and others in the person’s life, as well as any additional mental or physical health conditions. Such issues should be addressed at the same time as the substance use treatment. When treating adolescents, clinicians must also be ready and able to manage complications related to their young patients’ confidentiality and their dependence on family members who may or may not be supportive of recovery.”
Types of Drug Rehab for Adolescents
There are many types of drug treatment for teens and young adults. There are many different treatment approaches that can work. What will work for your teen may not work for everyone, so it is important to choose a rehab program that offers a varied and comprehensive treatment approach. For example, at Turnbridge, our teen rehab programs offer a blend of group counseling, one-to-one counseling, 12-step meetings, behavioral therapies such as CBT, meditation and mindfulness therapies, and more, with each treatment plan varying depending on each individual’s needs.
While many evidence-based treatment methods have been found effective for adolescents, the NIDA strongly encourages behavioral therapies for this age group: “Behavioral therapies, delivered by trained clinicians, help an adolescent stay off drugs by strengthening his or her motivation to change.” Behavioral therapies help teens develop problem-solving skills, healthy coping mechanisms, productive and positive activities, and the skills needed to resist and refuse drugs.
You Are Not Alone
Millions of adolescents across the United States are battling a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 teens get the professional help and rehab they need. But help is not out of reach. As a parent, know that addiction is very treatable – especially when addressed early on. National sources affirm, “When substance use disorders are identified and treated in adolescence—especially if they are mild or moderate—they frequently give way to abstinence from drugs with no further problems.”
Learn more about teen drug abuse and addiction – and how to get the help your teen deserves – today by calling Turnbridge at 877-581-1793. You may also visit us online to learn about our young men’s and women’s rehab programs in New Haven, Connecticut.