Finding Treatment for Your Adolescent

Teens struggling with addiction
Last Edited: February 20, 2020

Matt Esaena

Clinically Reviewed
Andrew Lancaster, LPC, MAC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Getting your teen the help they need.

According to the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, about 1 in 10 parents said that they did not talk to their children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol or tobacco in the past year. The survey was conducted from 2004 to 2011 with parents of teens ages 12 to 17. Drug addiction and alcoholism threaten anyone no matter of age. Most parents, and their children, probably think of hardcore drugs like Heroin and Crack Cocaine when they think of addiction.

While it is unfortunate that most high school-aged teens know how and where to get those drugs, that does not mean that addiction cannot exist. Alcohol and prescription drug abuse are very real threats for teens.

Alcohol is the most abused drug in America and prescription drug use is reaching all-time highs pain killers, stimulants and tranquilizers have the power to slash they user’s life short. They can be just as dangerous as street drugs if not taken correctly. One study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that people who abuse painkillers such as OxyContin are 19 times more likely to start using Heroin. In that same study, it was discovered that 8 out of 10 people who abused Heroin started on prescription drugs first.

NIDA reported that 62 percent of teens who use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons do so because it is easy to get from their parent’s medicine cabinet. 51 percent abuse pills because they are not illegal drugs. These numbers stress the importance of talking to your kids about the dangers of drug abuse. It is not just cocaine and heroin that ruin lives, relationships and careers. Prescription drugs and alcohol, which are not technically illegal, do that as well.

Click Here to review treatment centers for Young Adults (Ages 16–25).

Teenagers and Substance Abuse: Experimenting with Drugs & Alcohol

It can be hard to grasp that your teen has a drug or drinking problem that needs addressing. You may think that some grounding and taking away of cell phones and video games may do the trick. But the truth is, addiction is a disease. Like any other medical disease, it requires professional help to cope with. When someone uses drug or alcohol with regularity, they run the risk of having their brain rewired and developing a chemical dependency. Once that happens, their body needs substances to function.

Most people try to cut back or quit all together using drugs and alcohol and become confused when they can’t. They do not understand; their friends and family most likely do not understand. Because no one understands why they cannot just quit, the feeling of isolation can start to sink in. Isolation, guilt and hopelessness are addiction’s most powerful allies. Those emotions keep addiction fed, because the user does not know where or who to turn to.

Substance abuse treatment, through rehab, is obviously the safest and most logical choice to recover from an addiction. The truth of the matter is: rehab is not a cure for addiction. Once parents hear that, they become confused because if there are no guarantees that their child can recover so why spend the time and money to send their child to rehab? Because the only other two choices are death or prison.

Start by talking to your teen about their drug or alcohol use. If they deny their obvious substance abuse problem, then it might take a more formal and pursuant confrontation.

Planning an Intervention for Adolescents

Parents should not rule out staging an intervention for their teenager who has a drug or alcohol problem. Setting up an intervention might be the wakeup call your child needs to realize that they need help with a life-threatening issue. It does not matter the user’s age, many people who to go to rehab often times do not. They feel they have no support from those close to them or because they deny their problem so frequently that they believe themselves that they do not have a problem.

An intervention can not only help your loved one to agree to go to rehab, but can allow them to realize that people still care about them. If they see people gathered to express concern, it might open their eyes to the big picture, which is that they are killing themselves and ruining their relationships because of drugs and alcohol.

Talking to teens about anything can be difficult, let alone drugs and alcohol. Confronting your child in a non-judgmental fashion can help them decide to do the right thing and enroll into rehab. Do not gather friends and family to criticize your loved one about their substance abuse, gather people who care to prove to your loved one that they do not have to feel isolated.

Finding an Adolescent Drug Treatment Rehab

Understanding that rehab is not a cure-all medicine for addiction, you do not want to just enroll your child into the cheapest or first rehab center that you come across. Everyone has different needs that need to be met in order to fully cope with their substance abuse problem. But at the same time, completing rehab is not easy so you will want to make sure that your teen has much professional help and resources possible to stay comfortable, focused and supported.

Some parents make calls to some of the rehab centers that they are looking into beforehand, to ask questions about the facility’s staff, location and time frames. Letting your child be a part of choosing which facility they attend is ideal, but not always the case. In most cases, the facility has to be picked out even before the intervention. If your child decides that they are ready to go to rehab, then it might have to be an on-the-spot process.

While success rates can be a good selling point for the rehab center, do not let that be a make or break component. What works for some in rehab to relearn how to live a happy and sober life, might not work for others. You cannot force anyone to go to rehab. If someone is forced, they are unlikely to remain sober after rehab, if they even finish. They have to want to attend, participate and finish.

When your teen arrives that the chosen facility, they will see other people who are also having a hard time with drug addiction and alcoholism. This should help open their eyes that they are not the only one. Realizing that hope exists is a huge win for someone who will be trying to get through rehab.

Should My Teenage Travel for Drug Treatment?

As a parent it can be hard to allow your child to travel to another city or state for rehab. You might be scared for them and want to make sure they are doing well. That is normal. But studies have shown that traveling for rehab can give huge advantages to those who are trying to reach sobriety. Many adolescents take to drugs and alcohol because of peer pressure.

Their squad tries to convince them that it is cool to drink alcohol, smoke Marijuana and use prescription drugs. And when your teen’s substance abuse problem becomes more threatening, they may try to stop on their own, but their friends will tell them everyone does it and it is normal.

Getting some separation from those friends can greatly help your teen. They will not be around those who encourage or justify their drug and alcohol consumption. When living in the midst of addiction, it can be hard for the user to know that there is another way to live. Going back to the idea that your child may have tried to lay off drugs and alcohol, but their chemical dependency keeps them hooked. This is confusing for them; they may think they have to live life that way forever.

Traveling for rehab allows the patient to see drugs and alcohol do not have to control their decision making skills anymore. Learning how to deny temptations is a big part of rehab. It will be easier to learn how to do that if no temptations present themselves for the time being.

The Right Treatment Program: Inpatient or Outpatient?

One of the most asked questions when selecting a substance abuse treatment facility, Inpatient rehab programs are usually more in-depth. The patient remains on a medical campus until their program has been completed. This gives the staff a better opportunity to keep a closer look at each patient, keeping them safe and comfortable. It will also keep the patient from every day stresses that lead to temptations of using drugs and alcohol, giving them a better advantage to focus.

Outpatient programs might not be able to go as in-depth as inpatient, but they can still be effective if it fits your teen better.

Outpatient rehab programs usually allow the patient to leave at night and on weekends. Working through therapy session during the day can definitely help someone who is trying to recover from a drug addiction but can also put a lot of pressure on the person. Because it will be on their own terms to turn down using substances after hours. They will not have the luxury of sober living accommodations like inpatient programs do.

Most people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will try to sell to their loved ones that their problem is not that harsh and they can recover from it by completing an outpatient program. But if your loved one’s addiction is severe, then choosing an inpatient program will probably be the way to go.

The Importance of Detox for Teen Treatment

Some people reject the thought of entering treatment because of the detoxification process. There is no getting around that in most cases the bad reputation caused by withdrawal symptoms live up to the hype. Parents might think they are doing their child a favor by detoxing at home with cold turkey methods. The mindset might be that if their child is at home, then they will be comfortable. That is not true. Not only will they be extremely uncomfortable, but cold turkey methods are dangerous.

Checking your teen into an inpatient detox center is your best chance at success. Medical supervision can go a long way for someone when they are suffering from puking, shaking, sweating, trouble sleeping and other withdrawal symptoms. Not only does it give the patient a peaceful mindset, but most modern detox facilities offer their patients special medication to help with the pain and discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms. Intense withdrawal symptoms can also include major dehydration and hallucinations.

With the proper care, your teen should be able to get past the detox stage of recovery, which is vital, with little to no issues. Do not think that you can avoid withdrawal symptoms if you push back going to a detox or rehab facility. If anything, the withdrawal symptoms for the drug or alcohol user will be much worse without the proper medical attention.