Teen substance abuse and addiction are major public health problems in the U.S. today. They’re also big problems for individuals and their families. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, teen substance abuse is America’s biggest public health issue. And an even bigger problem is that there are few options for teens needing help or for their parents who cannot afford pricey addiction treatment.
The Issue Of Teen Substance Abuse
The facts about teens and addiction may come as a surprise to many parents who are woefully ignorant about teen drug use. Most parents have no idea how big the problem is. According to a recent study conducted by CASA, 75 percent of high school students have used an addictive substance. Nearly half currently abuse addictive drugs or alcohol and one-third of these could be diagnosed as having an addiction.
The report also found that 90 percent of American who have an addictive disorder started abusing substances before the age of 18. This means that addiction is a disease that most often starts during adolescence. It is extremely important to treat these vulnerable young people, most of whom are destined to grow into adults battling addiction.
Cost-Prohibitive Addiction Treatment
In spite of this overwhelming problem with young people and substance abuse, getting treatment for teens isn’t easy. One of the biggest roadblocks is cost. Not all insurance plans cover addiction care, or they cover care for only a short period of time. These plans typically do not allow sufficient time for the young person to be adequately treated before being sent home. Recent laws, such as the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, have helped to make improvements in coverage, but it hasn’t been enough to make a dent in the cost of care for most families struggling with teen addiction.
Some parents have gone to extremes to help their children get into recovery. One such set of parents reported having a 13-year-old daughter addicted to heroin. Their insurance covered hospitalization and care for her for only 20 days. Her doctors agreed she was not ready to go home, but the insurance company would not extend coverage and her parents were out of money. To get their daughter the care she desperately needed, they called television networks and finally found one that would pay for her care if she were treated on air. This is an extreme measure, but the only option her parents could find. The girl is now 19 and sober.
Teen Treatment Programs Few And Far Between
Another factor that prevents many teens from getting the addiction care they need is availability of programs. The majority of addiction treatment programs are designed for adults. Not many children’s hospitals have psychiatric centers, and even fewer have addiction programs. Those that do have psychiatric facilities treat addiction on an inpatient basis only when the child or teen has also been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
Steps Needed To Start Helping Teens With Addiction
After hospitals, parents with minimal to no insurance coverage and little money have few options. There are plenty of private facilities offering excellent care, but most are expensive and cater to adults. To change the landscape for teens struggling with addiction, many things need to happen.
- The first is awareness. Not many people realize just how big the problem of teen substance abuse is.
- We also need insurance companies to step up and offer better coverage.
Only when we start to see these changes will there be a reduction in the numbers of both teens and adults struggling with addictive disorders.
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