Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

My Teen Doesn’t Think He Has a Problem. Will Alcohol Treatment Work?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink by the time they reach age 18. Since this abuse is so common, it’s not surprising that many teens with very persistent cases of addiction simply don’t believe they have a problem. Everywhere they turn, they might see people drinking. They might even be capable of providing the names of other teens who drink more often or who down more alcohol when they do drink. Teens like this might not believe they even have alcoholism, but that doesn’t mean treatment programs can’t help.

Understanding Denial

Alcohol addictions don’t form due to a character defect, and teens who have these addictions aren’t trying to hurt their families or otherwise cause harm. Instead, teens with alcoholism have a very serious medical condition that can impact the way they think, feel and interact with the world. Alcohol might be the most important thing in that teen’s life, but all the while, the teen might have a variety of excuses that can be used to put a positive spin on a very dangerous situation. Instead of being addicted, teens might suggest that they’re just experimenting. Instead of being compelled to drink, these teens might suggest that they can stop anytime they’d like to do so. It’s called denial, and it’s a defining characteristic of an addiction.

Since denial is so common among people with addictions, treatment professionals have devised a variety of therapies that can help to banish destructive thoughts and help people see the reality of their situation. In therapy, counselors might ask teens to:

  • Name their future goals
  • Explain how alcohol helps them to reach their goals
  • Identify how alcohol might impede their progress
  • Think about what life might be like without alcohol

This kind of therapy is known as motivational enhancement therapy, and it’s commonly provided to addicts new to the recovery process. These clients might not see the need for addiction help when they enter treatment, but a few sessions of this therapy might allow them to change their opinions for the better.

Vital Assistance

Teens in denial might insist that they don’t need alcoholism help, but if those dangerous behaviors are left untreated, they can ruin a teen’s chances for a healthy and happy life in the future. For example, in a study in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers found that early, persistent use of alcohol was associated with alcohol addiction and/or drug addiction later in life. The researchers conducted this study with twins, meaning that they controlled for genetic factors. They determined that the environment and untreated cases of early substance abuse were more closely identified with adult problems. Those parents who allow their children to deny their problems may be inadvertently condemning their children to a lifetime of substance use and abuse, and they may regret that decision each and every day.

At Muir Wood, we’d like to help your adolescent son recover from an alcohol addiction. We provide comprehensive addiction care, including life skills training, in our California facility, and we keep our enrollment numbers low, ensuring that we’re giving each client the help he needs. If you’d like to find out more about our program, please call.