Teen Addiction Getting Teens Through the Darkness
Teens and substance abuse disorder…
The term “substance use disorder” describes a person with destructive and unmanageable drug use. An individual may “abuse” substances which means overindulging in drugs or alcohol from time to time, or develop an “addiction,” which could be described as a chemical and/or psychological dependence.
Substance use disorders (or SUDs) describes a person who abuse or depend on a substance. They also show some impairment or distress in their lives because of their use. While any relationship with drugs or alcohol can be disastrous, some people are able to manage it and still function normally alongside everyone else. You may even know someone like this. A substance use disorder, on the other hand, becomes an obvious issue the moment it develops. If your teen has a substance use disorder, the consequences can spread like wildfire into all aspects of their life. Some people who experiment with substances believe it “won’t happen to them.” But thousands of kids develop an SUD each day. For many of them, treatment for the underlying substance abuse is often the only solution.
Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder
In order to diagnose SUD an individual must meet criterion, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, patients must exhibit at least 2–3 of the following 11 symptoms. In the past year, he or she:
-Had times when they used more, or longer, than they intended
-Wanted or tried to cut down or stop , but couldn’t
-Spent a lot of time using or being sick/recovering from the aftereffects
-Wanted to use so badly they couldn’t think of anything else
-Found that using (or the aftereffects) often interfered with taking care
of home or family, caused job troubles or caused school problems
-Continued to use when it was causing trouble with family or friends
-Gave up or missed out on activities that were important to them or gave them pleasure -More than once got into situations while or after using that increased their chances of getting hurt (e.g. driving, unsafe sex, operating machinery)
-Continued to use even though it was making them feel depressed or anxious, worsened another health problem or caused a memory blackout
-Had to use much more than they once did to reach the desired effect
Felt withdrawal symptoms when the substance was wearing off (e.g. trouble sleeping, nausea, racing heart), or sensed things that weren’t there
A moderate SUD is marked by 4–5 of these symptoms, and a severe case involves 6 or more. Any mild substance use disorder may demand professional help. Today, doctors may label mild cases of SUD as “abuse” and severe causes of SUD as “dependence.”
Teen Substance Problems
Adolescents have a reputation for partying and experimenting, and it’s a reputation well-deserved. Around 75% of high schoolers have used addictive substances at least once, and nearly half of them — more than 6 million kids in the US — currently use. More than 65% of young people in the US have used more than one substance. And a 2011 study revealed that 1.5 million American teens meet the criteria for an SUD. There’s overwhelming evidence that teens who abuse drugs or alcohol are far more vulnerable to SUDs than adults. Approximately 90% of US adults with an addiction started using before age 18 — whether it be smoking, drinking or doing drugs. A quarter of people who started using addictive substances before age 18 are addicted. whereas only 1 in 25 who began at age 21 or older are addicted.
Educating your children and keeping your house safe from substances go a long way in preventing them from using. But there’s only so much you can do. If you face the reality of an SUD in your son or daughter, it’s time to consider the various treatment options for substance abuse.
Can Outpatient Treatment Work?
In short, yes. Outpatient treatment for teenagers with substance problems can be highly effective, and in some cases, it’s a major turning point in their lives. Unfortunately, only 7% of addicted teens receive treatment for their disorder.
As of 2015, there are more than 14,500 substance abuse treatment centers in the United States alone most not geared toward teens. We believe teens and young adults need a different approach. We believe live online counseling is the answer: Three times a week over ten weeks, group members meet online under the guidance of an experienced addiction counselor to work on addiction recovery issues using cognitive therapy and the 12-Step approach.
If your teen has relapses after treatment, this does not mean their treatment has failed. This may mean a different approach is necessary for success. This is a common fear among parents: that treatment wont work for their loved one because their teen used again. But this usually only means that treatment should be reinstated, potentially with some slight adjustments. Abuse of drugs or alcohol can do serious damage to the teenage brain. Treatment not only teaches them about addiction and how to change their perspective,, but is a scientifically-proven approach to help get an addict’s brain back in shape — even if some trial and error is involved.
What’s the Treatment Process?
Each teen or young adult who is admitted undergoes a proper diagnosis, and their treatment plan is then custom built for their addiction. Their program will likely include some variation of these substance abuse treatment modalities.
At the time your son or daughter arrives for rehab, there’s a good chance that the offending substance (or substances) is still coursing through their system. Detox (or detoxification) is where their body finishes flushing the drugs or alcohol out so that the real healing can begin. The human body will do this naturally, and it can take a couple days or a couple weeks — depending on the patient’s situation. Detoxing under the care of professionals ensures that it’s done safely out of reach from harmful substances. Your teen may experience withdrawal symptoms as well — physical or mental anguish from not feeding their addiction. By undergoing detox with medical supervision, doctors can aid them through any withdrawal pains (potentially with the help of medication).
Outpatient Treatment Therapies
Teen drug or alcohol therapy is often focused primarily around therapy. In teenagers with SUDs, biological factors play an immense role. Segments of the brain typically show underdevelopment or other abnormalities. This includes the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for goal setting, impulsivity, reasoning and judgment. The nucleus accumbens is also still developing in teens, which explains their tendency for thrill seeking. These factors, when combined with genetic and environmental factors, can help doctors understand why a teen may be struggling with substance abuse. To fully understand an individual teen’s problem — and to then address it comprehensively — the first course of action in outpatient treatment is one or more types of therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy or CBT) is a treatment option that seeks to uncover the thinking behind a teenager’s addiction and work towards reshaping these thought patterns. On a whole, CBT is based on the notion that thoughts cause behaviors and the way we perceive, interpret and assign meaning to our environment. During a teen’s rehab for substance abuse, sessions of CBT encourage them to:
Develop self-regulation and coping skills by helping them identify stimulus cues that precede their substance use
Use various strategies to avoid high-risk situations, people or places
Develop skills for communication and problem-solving
Family-based therapy emphasizes the role of family (or lack thereof) in a young person’s substance abuse. Sessions of family therapy bring together those closest to an addicted teen and address issues such as poor family communication, cohesiveness and problem solving. This method of treatment is centered on the premise that family carries the most profound and long-lasting influence on development, and in modeling both good and bad behaviors and beliefs. For instance, in a case of alcohol abuse treatment, family therapy may bring up the role of alcohol in the household. If the parents are casual drinkers, or haven’t discussed the risks of alcohol use with their children, this may be a major influence in a teen’s drinking problem.
A relationship with drugs or alcohol can rewire certain functions of the brain, specifically the reward centers. When a teen smokes marijuana every time they accomplish something or feels they deserve a break, the brain can come to expect marijuana as a reward, and nothing else will suffice. Contingency management (or “motivational incentives”) is utilized in many substance abuse treatment models for adolescents. This form of therapy tracks each patient’s progress in treatment, including each day they succeed in staying sober, and rewards them with a prize. Prizes might include gift certificates, electronics, clothing or even cash. The more teens feel satisfied with their rewards, not only will they continue striving to stay sober, but their brain will relearn how to appreciate rewards that aren’t drugs or alcohol.
Motivational interviewing (or “brief intervention”) techniques use a person-centered, non-confrontational style in assisting the patient to explore various facets of their substance habit. During these sessions, the teen patient is encouraged to examine the pros and cons of their use, and with the help of their therapist, create goals to help them achieve a healthier lifestyle. While the patient’s freedom of choice regarding their substance use is respected, the therapist will provide personalized feedback with the goal of gradually helping them realize the consequences of their actions. This type of therapy has grown significantly more popular in recent years, especially in addressing teenage substance abuse.
Recreational Engagement Encouragement
Recreational therapy engages teens to in active leisure activities (e.g. sports, arts and crafts, games). Healthy leisure can benefit a recovering addict in several ways, and has an emphasis on treating the “whole person,” not just the mind. In the worst of a substance addiction, a teenager can easily forget how to enjoy life outside of drugs or alcohol. Recreational therapy encourages them to loosen up throughout the treatment process and helps them rediscover the positive traits of their personality. It also allows them to bond with other recovering addicts, and relearn how to interact with others in a healthy way. Along the way they may learn new skills, improve their physical health and feel a boost to their self-esteem and self-worth.
Medications for Treatment
Prescribing medications during substance abuse treatment may help your teen reduce cravings, restore their normal health, or address any underlying psychiatric disorders (which is also known as a dual diagnosis). Pharmacotherapy, as it’s called, is far more common in adult treatment patients. But if your doctors determine that medication would be beneficial, it may be implemented into your teen’s treatment plan.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Treatment for teenage drug abuse varies in length based on each individual’s needs. Your teen’s substance abuse treatment plan may be mapped out for 30 days, 90 days or 6 months. But curing an addiction is not as simple as following a recipe. Substance use disorders are a complex mental health problem, and each of the 1.5 million young people who suffer from one in the US requires special attention. If your teen needs rehab for an SUD, don’t expect results in a matter of days. The most severe cases may take months of treatment — and for many of these teens, the path to recovery extends far past the treatment phase. Follow the doctor’s recommendations and have your teen’s progress evaluated each step of the way. The worst thing you can do is end a teen’s treatment abruptly or prematurely.
How Can I Help My Teen Stay Clean?
group aftercare therapy session Following treatment, a teenager is thrust back into the world. Temptations lie around every corner. For millions of people who struggle with addiction, their problem stays with them for years after treatment, or even or a lifetime. After you’ve helped your son or daughter kick their habit, aid them in preparing a plan to prevent relapse.
Joining a 12-step program is one of the most common forms of aftercare. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) date back decades, and have assisted millions of recovering addicts around the world by welcoming them into their community. Approximately 2.3% of AA members in the US are under the age of 21. When your teen becomes a member of AA or a similar group, they’ll be introduced to others dealing with similar issues, and they’ll be assured that they’re in a judgment-free zone. At each meeting, they’ll go over the group’s mission statement — often laid out in 12 principles or “steps” — and discuss their personal progress in staying sober. Teen Addiction Anonymous, a 12-step program geared towards teens, reports that 90% of teens with substance problems show a significant decline in their usage after attending 6 or more meetings. Support groups like these are often free of charge.
Outside of community support groups, scheduling one-on-one counseling for your teen is another treatment option that can help them stay proactive in their recovery. Substance abuse counselors are often recovered addicts themselves. Encouraging positive lifestyle changes in your teen — and the rest of your household, for that matter — are another big way to promote their sobriety. Health-forward habits like sports, after-school clubs, learning new skills and eating right can give your teen a new lease on life following treatment, and help them distance themselves from their old ways.
Does My Teen Need Rehab?
If you notice signs of drug use or alcohol abuse in your teen, you should address them immediately. Share these symptoms with your child’s doctor, who can help you analyze the situation and figure out what is happening. If substance abuse is happening at any level, call us and we can offer solutions. Oftentimes, teens benefit from some sort of counseling even if they have only experimented with substances and do not have a diagnosable substance use disorder.
It can be daunting to realize that your teen needs to undergo treatment. Do not go through this difficult time alone, but reach out to us at www.roccosrecovery.com and we can help.