Once a teenager has been diagnosed with a substance abuse problem, such as addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s time to seek professional treatment.
There are 3 categories that define substance abuse in teens:
- Drug and/or alcohol use. This is generally defined as the teen occasionally using alcohol or drugs, but there are no physical withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not in the child’s body.
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse. When a teen chooses to use alcohol or drugs on a regular, on-going basis, even though they can see how the substance use is creating issues for them – such as problems at school or physical symptoms – this is considered abuse.
- Drug and/or alcohol dependency. How do you know when abuse has turned into dependency? Generally doctors must see at least 3 of the following factors present in order to diagnose a teen as addicted or dependent on drugs or alcohol:
- The substance is taken in large dosages or over long periods of time.
- The teen spends a great deal of time getting, taking and recovering from the substance(s).
- The teen has to “detox” in order to feel normal and function properly at important events or social obligations, such as school or family functions.
- The individual has expressed a desire to control the abuse, but keeps going back to the substance.
- After acknowledging the abuse has had a negative effect on his or her life, the individual continues to use.
- It takes a larger dosage of the substance for the teen to feel the desired effects.
- When the individual hasn’t taken the substance for a short period of time, they start to display physical withdrawal symptoms.
- The teen has to take more of the substance in order to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms.
If you or your teen is showing these warning signs, it might be time for addiction treatment.
How is teen substance abuse and addiction treated?
Often times a drug or alcohol abuse problem with a teenager is found in conjunction with a mental health problem. Millions of Americans suffer from mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, and sometimes the issue goes unaddressed – leading the individual to “self-medicate” with alcohol or street drugs.
Because the substance abuse problem may have started because of the mental health issue, it’s important that those who have a dual diagnosis receive addiction treatment that focuses on the co-occurring disorders at the same time.
Teen Treatment Centers will generally evaluate the following before developing a treatment program:
- The age of the teenager. It’s important to develop a treatment program that is appropriate for the developmental stage of the teenager.
- The gender of the teen. Although treatment may be similar for boys and girls, the program recommended could depend on the gender of the teen and what the facility has to offer for the child specifically.
- The teenager’s family values. If the teen comes from a religious background, for example, often times the treatment center will recommend a program that integrates those spiritual values.
- The family history of the teen. When a teenager comes from a family who has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, this can increase the teen’s risk factors. Most rehab centers will complete a family history background analysis to better understand the teen’s genetics and how that plays a role in recovery.
- The teen’s relationships. The addicted teenager has a better chance of finding long term success with rehab when their close friends and family are involved in the recovery process. On the other hand, when the teen has built relationships with others who abuse drugs or alcohol, it is equally important that the teen is taught how to move past these relationships to help avoid relapse after the initial treatment is complete.
Once the professionals at the rehab center have evaluated the teen for treatment, they will recommend a rehab program. Recommended treatment varies greatly, and should be custom for the unique needs of each teen and their own mental health and substance abuse problems.