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Help for Teens with Substance Abuse Disorders

When teens develop substance abuse disorders, it's crucial for them to receive prompt treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the brains of young people are still in the process of development, and addiction disorders in adolescence and the teen years not only result in physiological and behavioral changes that can disrupt their relationships, education, and career prospects but also render them more vulnerable to substance abuse problems as adults.

Identifying Substance Abuse Disorders in Teens

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) advises that changes in a teen's behavior such as increased moodiness, deteriorating performance in school, and poor grooming habits can signify the onset of a substance abuse disorder. It's a good idea to have these teens screened by their doctors for addiction problems. Parents can also get in touch with professionals who specialize in treating addiction.

Good News and Bad News

NIDA reports on their blog for teens that substance use among young people has gone down for most types of substances, including alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medications like opioids. The use of inhalants and marijuana, however, has remained steady, and vaping is on the rise. The most worrisome statistic from NIDA is that teen drug overdoses have increased since 2015, especially overdoses of heroin and fentanyl, a dangerous and terrifyingly potent synthetic drug.

Communicating with Teens about Substance Abuse

From the outset, you must discourage your teen from any experimentation whatsoever with substances, since experimentation can lead to ingrained behavior patterns that result in addiction. If your teen has developed a problem with substance abuse, it's important to make them fully aware that there are consequences to their behavior. The Indian Health Service recommends that you communicate clearly with your teen about the dangers of substance abuse such as overdose, driving while intoxicated, and risky sexual activity, keep track of their daily activities, and make firm rules which you don't hesitate to enforce.

Treatment Considerations for Teens

Substance abuse treatment for teens shares much in common with rehab for adults, though there are special considerations. Since teens are more susceptible to peer influence, NIDA advises that therapists must make sure discussions with peers in group therapy settings do not do not become favorable toward drug use. NIDA also reports that family support is a vital ingredient in an adolescent's recovery from substance abuse disorders. Other important factors cited by NIDA include the following:

  • If you have to use legal means to get your teen into treatment, it will be worth the effort, since teens rarely seek treatment for substance abuse disorders on their own. Teens respond well to effective rehab programs even if they were initially unwilling to enter such a program.
  • As with adult rehabilitation programs, treatment programs for teens are designed for each individual person based on unique needs and circumstances. For teens, these factors include their family situation, academic performance, age, and mental development.
  • Teens who struggle with substance abuse disorder must be assessed as to whether they suffer from a co-occurring mental disorder such as depression or anxiety for which they are trying to self-medicate. This is also known as dual diagnosis. For rehab to lead to lasting sobriety, it must address and treat any underlying psychological conditions.

When substance abuse disorders are addressed early in teenagers by effective treatment programs, there is every reason to hope that these young people can get back on track, enjoy their milestones as they continue to grow and develop, and enter adulthood well-equipped to live stable, sober, rewarding lives.