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Teen Substance Abuse: Choosing a Treatment Program

Topic Overview

The program you choose for your teen needs to view substance abuse as a primary disease and not as a symptom. Your teen needs to have a comprehensive evaluation to determine the level of substance use and the presence of psychiatric or medical conditions.

If you need to place your teen in a treatment program, look for one that has the following components.

  • Education: Treatment for teen substance abuse needs to include a way for your teen to continue his or her education. If remedial work is needed, providing techniques that allow maximum achievement for the teen will help boost his or her self-confidence.
  • Parental involvement: Most likely, family therapy will be part of the treatment. But you also need to provide support and encouragement for your teen both during and after the program.
  • Promotion of interests: The program needs to provide leisure or recreational time when your teen can pursue a hobby or interest. A leisure activity that can be continued after treatment will help him or her have something healthy to do rather than use alcohol or drugs.
  • Special services: Special services such as mental health services, vocational help, and counseling need to be part of the program. If your teen has other conditions, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorder, treatment for those conditions needs to be started during substance abuse treatment.
  • Urine drug screens: The program needs to require that your teen not use drugs during treatment. Random urine drug screens can be used to monitor teens during treatment and even in an aftercare program.
  • Relapse prevention: Relapse (returning to alcohol or drug use) is common after treatment for substance abuse. Teen programs need to help the teen develop a plan for dealing with drug cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.
  • Aftercare: Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after treatment. An aftercare program that keeps the teen involved and around people who are staying drug-free (recovering) helps lower the chance that he or she will relapse. If your teen commits to aftercare for 12 to 24 months, he or she will be less likely to relapse.
  • Groups: The program needs to include group and individual counseling along with support and self-help groups. These groups need to be separate from adult groups. Counseling may include cognitive-behavioral therapy to help your teen learn coping skills to prevent future drug use.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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