Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Selecting a Drug Treatment Program

exterior of a muir wood campusFinding the right drug treatment program for an adolescent isn’t as easy as running an online search on facilities located nearby. Addictions are complex disorders, and research suggests that treatment tends to be most successful when it’s perfectly paired to meet the person’s specific wants, needs and medical history. For example, a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that treatment for teens was most successful when the decisions on therapies were made based on the teens’ mental health, not the teens’ addiction severity. By looking for programs that address the underlying issues surrounding the addiction, the therapies have the best chance of taking hold. These are some guidelines parents can follow as they look for this kind of targeted care.

The Proper Type of Care

A drug treatment program can specialize in specific patient populations and needs. Addictions in adolescents are very different than addictions in adults. Where adult drug users might struggle with social issues, including homelessness, domestic violence or parenting, teen drug users might deal with mental illnesses, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Personality disorders
  • Conduct disorders

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than half of teens with a substance abuse issue also have a diagnosable mental illness. These teens need specialized care in order to heal, and it’s not the kind of care they’re likely to find in adult-only homes. Adolescent-only treatment centers tend to focus on issues of mental illness, and they provide therapies that are able to assist teens with both thought disturbances and addiction issues. Programs that include only teens may also provide socialization and affiliation opportunities that are vital for long-term sobriety. Allowing teens to spend time with their peers helps them to feel involved and part of something natural and helpful. Teen-only programs may be able to fill these needs, where mixed programs might not.

Starting a Search

It’s ideal for parents to take their children through comprehensive mental health screenings before they begin to search for treatment options, but this isn’t always possible. Mental health screenings can take time, and teens who are asked to go through these types of appointments may rebel and delve yet deeper into addiction. Sometimes, parents must simply begin looking for care, ensuring that no delays take place. When the teen enters the facility for care, then a full mental health assessment can take place and therapists can use the results of this testing to design an appropriate treatment program.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains a database of drug abuse treatment facilities, and the list is updated on a regular basis. It could be an excellent starting place for families, as the tool can be used to spot facilities located near the family home, but running a simple search is often not quite enough in order for families to make an informed decision. Families will need to call the facilities they find, and they’ll need to ensure that each center offers appropriate treatments for the addiction the teen has, and that the facility is equipped to handle the mental illnesses the teen might be struggling with. Asking questions is both reasonable and expected, as facility administrators know that families want to make informed decisions and do the best for their children. Facilities might keep admissions counselors available via telephone at all hours, just to ensure that parents can talk to an expert.

Families that use an interventionist in order to deal with an addiction issue might have yet another avenue to explore. Interventionists often keep abreast of treatment options available, and they might have firsthand knowledge of how some programs work and whom they’re designed to help. Families might lean on their interventionists as they look for appropriate programs, and they might even ask their interventionist to help them make an informed choice between facilities that seem similar. Interventionists are often happy to provide this kind of help, as they’re committed to helping their clients improve.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine suggests that addictions can be treated on one of five different severity levels, ranging from brief counseling to intensive inpatient programs that could last from one month to one year. It’s important to note, however, that families aren’t asked to plot out the full course of treatment when they discover an addiction. Counselors, case managers, doctors, interventionists and other addiction professionals can make those recommendations, and the treatment plan might change in time. The important thing in the early days is to get the teen to a qualified facility that can handle teen addictions, no matter how severe they might be. Families that look for facilities like this will be taking an excellent step toward health for their children.

At Muir Wood, we provide a wide range of services for adolescent boys, and our counselors would be happy to discuss our treatment planning process. Please call us to start that discussion.