Teen Drug Rehab: Finding The Right Fit
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 90 percent of people who had addictions began their substance abuse prior to age 18. Learn to combat this reality with the right treatment for your teen.
The teen years are a time of experimentation, when teens straddle the line between living at home under the rule of their parents and living on their own, where there may be no rules at all. Adolescence is also a time of intense growth, when cells in the brain are dying, growing, and connecting with one another in new and different ways, and some of these changes make the brain more responsive to drugs. Put a need for independence and a changing brain together and it’s a recipe for addiction. It’s no wonder that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 90 percent of people who had addictions began their substance abuse prior to age 18.
Addictions are characterized by compulsive use that’s outside the person’s control. People like this are physically and/or mentally unable to stop abusing substances, even though they might desperately want to do so. Giving control back means providing the person with in-depth, ongoing, comprehensive therapy. Teens who get help like this can recover, although they might need to spend the rest of their lives defending their sobriety and ensuring their bad habits don’t return. This article will outline some of the major tenets of a teen rehab.
If you have any questions about teen drug rehab, or you’d like to know more about how to enroll your son in a program like this, please contact us at Muir Wood.
Benefits of Inpatient Teen Rehab
Drug rehab programs begin when detoxification is complete and the person no longer has active drugs in the bloodstream. It’s a crucial point in the recovery process, as the teen could simply slide right back into the habits that helped the addiction to flourish. To capitalize on the gains the teen has already made, families will need to ensure that teen rehab begins right away with no delays. Sometimes, that’s an easy transition to make, as addiction treatment takes place within the same building that housed the teen during detox. But there are some families that choose to perform detox and rehab in different facilities. They’ll need to ensure that the teen isn’t given the chance to backslide.
In general, inpatient facilities are considered good choices for teens with a long history of addiction and a low level of motivation to succeed in rehab. These are the teens who don’t really believe that their addictions are a problem, and they’re adept at hiding their behaviors from their families. It would be very easy for these teens to start using drugs once more, and it would be hard for families to provide appropriate help when they’re so easily convinced that the addiction isn’t serious. In an inpatient program, teens will have the supervision they’ll need to ensure their sobriety, and they’ll be encouraged to stick with therapy until they have a firmer grip on the tools they’ll use to avoid drugs.
Teens with mental illnesses in addition to addictions might also benefit from inpatient care, and according to a study in the journal Adolescence, teens like this are common. Here, researchers found that pregnant, drug-abusing teen girls were more likely to be depressed than teen girls who did not abuse drugs. Teen drug abuse has also been linked to stress disorders and conduct disorders, and these teens might need help getting their mental illnesses under control so they can avoid using drugs in the future. It might be hard for teens to attain that level of care at home.
The Role of Medications
During the detox phase, medications can help to soothe symptoms and ensure that people stay enrolled long enough to see the process through to completion. As research about addictive drugs has continued, researchers have pinpointed specific medications that seem capable of soothing drug cravings for specific drugs, and those drugs might be appropriate for use months after detox is complete.
People who would benefit from medications like this have typically taken drugs like:
In a study of the use of medications in teen drug users, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers found that teens who had access to replacement drugs like this fared better in treatment. While 60 percent of people who received medications for mere symptoms later came back for more treatment, only 25 percent of teens given one type of replacement medication, whether or not they had symptoms, did the same. For some teens, replacement drugs have a vital role to play, as this study makes clear.
While many teens can go through rehab without any medications at all, some need help with mental illness symptoms, including anxiety and depression. These teens might also need medication management, as with the proper prescription, they’ll learn that they can keep their symptoms at bay without leaning on drugs. This could be a vital lesson that allows teens to stay sober for the rest of their lives.
In an addiction treatment program, the teen is asked to meet with a therapist on a regular basis to work on the addiction issue. One-on-one sessions might be helpful for some teens, but group meetings can also provide teens with the opportunity to meet with their peers and role-play or otherwise practice the skills they’re learning in therapy. The entire group serves to reinforce the lessons the therapist provides, and this could help to speed recovery.
Therapy can take many different forms, but often, teens are asked to think about the triggers that lead them to drug use. For some teens, peer pressure plays a role. For others, depression or anxiety is to blame. Once the hidden sensitivity is exposed, the teen can develop sophisticated tools that could be used to soothe the trigger, long before a relapse takes place. Avoidance, meditation, visualization or just straight talk could all be tools teens could use to diffuse a situation that might lead to drug use.
Other factors might come into play during teen drug treatment. For example, an article in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care reports that teens who take drugs often don’t develop social and emotional skills. While their peers are learning, they remain sedated and frozen in time, unable to move forward even though they might want to do so.
Therapy might help teens to pick up the tools they’ll need to survive in the adult world, including:
- Personal responsibility
- Ability to share
- Communication skills
- Respect for the law
These might be tools teens would have difficulty obtaining while they’re under the influence of drugs, but they might be lessons that are easier to learn when the drugs are gone and the teen understands that life must change.
Involving the Family
While addictions are private affairs and much of the addiction therapy is focused on the needs and preferences of the addicted teen, the family has likely changed as a result of the addiction. The parents may be increasingly distrustful of the teen, and resentful of all of the opportunities the teen has wasted due to the addiction. Siblings might feel as though they’re ignored within the family, since so much attention is placed on the addicted teen. Some parents also have permissive tendencies and they struggle with setting appropriate and consistent rules, and this environment could also inadvertently allow addictions to flourish.
Family therapy might be vital, as all members of the family will have the opportunity to understand how they have been touched by addiction and how they might need to change in order for the whole group to function as a unit. Family members might learn how to express their needs without placing blame, and all members of the family might come to understand that they have the right to happiness and a home without strife. Clear rules, consistent enforcement and mutual respect could be key to long-term success.
Some family therapy sessions are large, involving all members of the family in one big group. Other family therapy sessions are more intimate, involving just a few participants at a time. Mixing up the program in this way allows all members of the family to listen and be heard, without allowing any one person to dominate the conversation and/or keep others from obtaining the help they need.
Reaching Out for Support
Therapy can provide crucial lessons for teens, but sometimes, they can learn even more by listening to and sharing with others who have dealt with addiction and recovery. Support groups such as Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous could allow teens to meet others they can relate to, and this group can form a tight bond of understanding. These are informal groups that don’t utilize a counselor or a person in charge. Instead, they’re groupings in which the addiction and the desire for healing is the common thread, and everyone who attends has a lesson to learn and a lesson to share. Some meetings allow participants to share their stories aloud, while other meetings provide a guest speaker who has a specific lesson to share about addiction. Some meetings even allow participants to study a written document about addiction, and share their thoughts about what the lesson contained.
Support groups often ask members to form teams. An advanced member works as a mentor to a newer member, and the two provide one another with 24/7 support. A teen who feels as though a relapse is imminent can lean on this sobriety sponsor for advice, and perhaps avoid a slip in the process. These groups might also provide teens with the opportunity to volunteer in the community, allowing the teen to feel more connected to others and perhaps stronger in sobriety as a result.
Multiple studies have suggested that support group participation is vital in the fight against teen addiction. For example, a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that adolescent participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous was associated with abstinence over the long-term. Teens who used this model of care were able to continue their treatment, in essence, learning from their peers and remaining in contact with sobriety success stories.
Support groups like this might be introduced during teen rehab programs, and teens might be required to attend meetings and provide proof to their therapists that they have attended. When drug rehab is over, however, teens can continue to attend these meetings in the community, and they can continue to learn about how to maintain a sober life. It can be an excellent option for teens who need to continue learning and growing in sobriety.
Marijuana Rehab for Teens
Using marijuana during adolescence can lead to significant problems later in life. For example, researchers at Duke University suggest that teens who abuse marijuana develop into adults with IQ declines as large as 8 points.
Stopping this damage means stopping marijuana abuse, and that’s something teens may not be able to do without help. With the help of a structured addiction treatment program, however, teens may have access to the resources that can help them to stop abusing marijuana, and they may also learn how to pull together a healthier, happier life as adults in the process.
One of the persistent myths regarding marijuana is that the drug causes no residual damage inside the human body. Teens who take the drug may have been told on a regular basis that the drug is natural and easily excreted from the body. As a result, they may believe they could stop taking the drug at any time and not feel any sort of withdrawal side effect when they attempt to get sober.
Teens who attempt to stop abusing marijuana on their own may learn the truth, as they may experience:
- Disturbing dreams
- Lack of appetite
- Cravings for marijuana
A study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that this sort of withdrawal process is common among adolescents, with nearly two-thirds of addicted teens in this study reporting four or more withdrawal symptoms. At times, the symptoms can be so overpowering and overwhelming that the teen feels as though marijuana use is the only thing that could provide relief. Addicted teens are accustomed to turning to the drug when anything in life is going astray, so it’s reasonable that they would turn to the drug when they feel miserable, but teens who relapse to drug use due to withdrawal symptoms may develop the mistaken belief that they simply can’t get better. They may find that marijuana is just too hard to give up, and they may strengthen their resolve to be lifelong drug users as a result.
While there is no magic pill or secret therapy that can solve all symptoms of distress associated with marijuana withdrawal, a formal rehab program can help teens get through the process with a smaller amount of misery. In a rehab program, they’ll have access to education, which can allow them to understand that their symptoms will fade in time, and that these symptoms are a normal part of healing from drug addiction. They may also have access to a clean and sober facility where drugs just aren’t present, so they just won’t be able to relapse to drug use, even if they want to do so. In extreme cases, some teens may even have access to medications that can soothe their pain so they can move through the process just a little easier. With this kind of comprehensive help, teens can move forward and get sober, and they can then move on to learn how to maintain that sobriety in the future.
Therapy for Marijuana Addiction
Much of the work that takes place in a therapy program for marijuana addiction is designed to help teens understand why they take drugs, and why that use might be harmful. Cognitive behavioral therapy might be a helpful way for therapists to deliver those lessons. Here, therapists encourage their clients to think about the people, places and things they associate with marijuana use.
For teens, this might include:
- Friends who use
- Relationship problems
- A low mood
Once the triggers for drug use have been identified, teens are encouraged to come up with new ways in which to handle those triggers. Teens who are easily bored, for example, might learn to exercise vigorously on a daily basis, so their bodies will be flooded with a natural sense of peace, and their muscles will be a little too tired to even transmit signals of boredom. Teens with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, might learn how to meditate to alleviate a poor mood, or they might learn how to discuss their feelings with a listening person, instead of drowning them with drugs. Therapy sessions like this are targeted and focused, really helping teens to come up with new solutions and new skills. It can be revolutionary in the fight against marijuana.
While individual therapy can be helpful for teens with marijuana addictions, treatment programs might also ask parents to take a strong role. Often, teens who abuse drugs have difficult or fraught relationships with their parents, or they may have parents who just don’t understand how to parent effectively and provide appropriate feedback when poor behaviors appear. In family therapy sessions, the trauma of the addiction can be discussed, and the parent and child can learn how to negotiate a new relationship based on mutual respect and trust. The therapy can be painful for parents to contemplate, but it really can be helpful for teens struggling with addiction. For example, in a study of this kind of therapy in teens who abused marijuana, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers found that 53 percent of teens were abstinent from marijuana 30 days after treatment had ended, and parenting skills had improved as well. This is a therapy that can make a difference, this study suggests.
Much of the work that takes place in a treatment program happens in the therapy room, but there are some other interventions that can make a huge difference in the lives of teens who use drugs. For example, a study in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society suggests that after a month of abstinence, teens who abuse marijuana have subtle differences in cognition, when compared with teens who don’t use drugs. These teens may be tempted to act out with anger or frustration due to their deficits, and they may not know of another way to express their feelings. Some programs provide teens with education on how their minds may have been amended by drug use, and they provide teens with the ability to understand and work around or explain their damage. These teens may learn how to negotiate the new reality of living with an amended brain just a little easier, and they may be less prone to dysfunction as a result. These programs might also provide teens with art therapy or drama courses, so they can learn to express themselves via a different media, and perhaps be soothed in that way.
Teens who abuse marijuana may also have a lack of confidence about their sober selves, and they may feel awkward and out of place in social situations as a result.
By providing social opportunities, therapy programs can help. Addicted teens who hike or participate in wilderness programs, for example, are learning about the power of exercise, but they’re also learning how to interact with other teens in recovery, and how to have fun while sober. These are vital lessons, and they can be supplied in treatment programs.
Support groups may also play a role in the recovery process for addicted teens. In a support group for addiction, a teen can:
- Learn more about addiction
- Learn how other people control their addictions
- Gain around-the-clock access to a sober mentor
- Mentor new members
- Socialize with sober people
When the urge to use begins to grow, teens have an outlet and an ally. They have the opportunity to keep learning and growing, and the help they get here may be so transformative that they keep on attending meetings in the community, long after their treatment programs have ended.
At Muir Wood, we know just how helpful 12-step programs can be for young people, and that’s why we encourage our clients to participate when our programs are complete. There are strong communities full of young people in recovery in both Sonoma County and Marin County, and we try to link our clients with meetings that could help. It’s just one way in which we hope to provide our clients with a recovery that can last. If you’d like to know more about our approach in helping addicted adolescents, please call.
Prescription Drug Rehab for Teens
It’s well known that teens are turning to the family medicine chest in order to feed their addictions.
According to research on the topic, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, of the teens who enter treatment programs for prescription drug abuse, about 45.3 percent were using prescription stimulants like Ritalin, and about 32.1 percent were using over-the-counter drugs like cold medicine. This makes teens strikingly different than adults, who tend to abuse prescription painkillers like Vicodin and develop addictions to those drugs as a result. Since teens and adults are so different in the patterns of use and abuse they follow regarding prescription drugs, it makes sense that these two groups would need very different treatment programs in order to heal. Thankfully, there are treatment programs made just for teens, and these facilities can provide the kind of targeted help that can allow these young people to heal and grow.
Assessing the Issue
Prescription drug manufacturers design their products in order to produce a specific set of responses inside the human body. As a result, each and every prescription drug may work a little differently in people who take them, and these drugs can also produce different responses when people attempt to stop taking them. People who attempt a cold-turkey detox from stimulant drugs, for example, might just feel irritable or upset, but people who use the same approach to deal with a benzodiazepine addiction could develop seizures. It’s a serious issue, and it’s something addiction treatment professionals are quite aware of. As a result, they may tailor their treatment programs depending on the drugs their clients use.
Drug testing can allow treatment providers to determine what their clients have been taking, and at what dosage levels. Sometimes, those tests bring back only one “hit” of a drug a person has taken, but sometimes, teens may have multiple drugs appearing on their test results. These poly-drug users may be accustomed to using some drugs to rev them up, and then using other drugs to bring them back down again. They may be loath to describe their preferences for drugs to outsiders, but the screening tests can determine the presence of drugs and ensure that these teens get the help they need.
Cleansing the System
When the treatment team is aware of the drugs the teen took, an appropriate detox schedule can be pulled together. In some cases, medications might play a key role. Teens with significant addictions to opioid medications may benefit from this kind of treatment, as there are many medications that can either soothe symptoms or replicate the chemical reactions their drugs caused within their bodies.
Common medication choices include:
Not all teens with opioid addictions need medication, however, and it’s not a requirement for all treatment programs to provide these drugs. Some programs believe strongly in a no-medication platform, as they’d like to provide teens the opportunity to heal without providing them with more medications in the process.
Some addictions also don’t respond readily to medication management. People who are addicted to cold medications, for example, may not have a front-line treatment they can lean on as they heal. These addictions may be very real and they can cause real misery, but there aren’t therapies that have been developed for the brain changes this kind of addiction can bring about. Some facilities use other drugs to facilitate the transition from intoxication to sobriety, including anti-anxiety medications and antidepressant medications, but again, not all facilities provide these treatments to their clients.
signs of substance abuseFinding the Source
One the drugs have been eliminated from the teen’s body, the hard work of recovery begins. Now that the teens are sober, they’ll need to learn how to maintain that sobriety for the rest of their lives, and resist the urge to slip into poor habits each time they walk by the family medicine chest. For some teens, this means dealing with underlying mental illnesses.
Some prescription medications change the production or uptake of neurochemicals related to happiness and well-being. After long-term drug abuse, the brain’s ability to regulate emotions begins to slip, and a deep feeling of depression can set in. This is an unfortunate but common side effect of drug abuse, and it’s particularly prevalent with specific types of prescription drugs. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 23 percent of teens who abused stimulants had depression within the year prior, compared to only 8.1 percent of teens who didn’t use stimulants. Other studies have found links between anxiety and conduct disorders among teens who abuse prescription drugs.
Teens with underlying mental health conditions need specialized treatments that attend to both the addiction and the illness. Leaving one issue in place can allow the other to grow stronger, and it can quickly lead to a spiral of dysfunction. Many treatment programs for prescription drug abuse in teens provide intensive testing for mental illness, so therapists can determine what sorts of conditions might impair healing in their client base.
Some teens may fly through these tests with ease, but they still might have issues that drive their abuse of prescription drugs. For example, a study in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect found a link between physical abuse, sexual abuse and drug use. These teens may have used drugs to help them forget about the trauma they endured, but when these teens are sober, their memories may be so painful that they’re tempted to fall back into abuse. Since this link is so strong, treatment programs may also provide intensive therapies early in the recovery process that can allow teens to discuss their past, and perhaps get help for the future.
Creating a Solution
Once the treatment team has a clear understanding of how the addiction developed and what might impede a complete recovery, they can design a treatment program that can help. In most cases, the treatment is designed to boost what an article in the Journal of Substance Abuse calls “coping efforts.” The idea here is that teens turn to prescription drugs out of a desperate need to solve a problem. They have a low mood, bad memories, destructive relationships or a lack of self-esteem, and they turn to prescription drugs to solve the problem. In therapy, these teens learn how to pull together other plans to help them deal with the same problems. They might learn how to meditate to help them ease anxiety, for example, or they might walk through memories of trauma with their counselors, and leave that pain behind them. Treatment provides them with understanding and tools, and they can use that information during the rest of their lives, no matter what challenges they may face.
Some addiction programs provide teens with amenities, in addition to their standard therapy sessions. These programs might give teens the opportunity to:
- Create art projects
- Experience nature through hikes or camping
- Care for horses or other trained animals
- Make music
These additional therapies can seem superfluous and just fun, but they are designed to help teens learn important lessons about addiction and how to control their cravings. These teens may be unaccustomed to spending time with others while sober, for example, and they may not feel as though they are likable and interesting without drugs. These activities can introduce them to the sober life, and they can help teens to see that they could succeed in a life like this.
The activities can also help to motivate teens to stay in their treatment programs and take the lessons to heart.
While teens don’t have the ability to walk out of their programs and continue with their lives and keep using, as their parents may not take them back into the fold of the family if they continue to use, teens may still feel as though they’ll just sit in the programs without really listening or learning. The additional treatments may help to break through the cynicism of these teens, and allow them to really participate in treatment on an emotional level.
Spending time in activities can be helpful for some teens, but there are times when teens may learn from one another through just talking and sharing. For some teens, this kind of sharing takes place best in support group meetings. Many of these addiction meetings follow a 12-step model made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. These meetings encourage teens to learn more about addiction, and to ask for outside help in dealing with things that they just can’t control. The idea is to help teens feel as though they always have somewhere to turn and someone who can help when life becomes stressful and difficult. They can rely on a higher power for this assistance, or they can contact a peer sponsor who can walk them through a difficult time. This is the kind of support that could lead to long-term abstinence, and some teens who are introduced to the 12-step model in their addiction treatment programs stay involved with the meetings for the rest of their lives.
Making the Choice
Even though prescription drug rehab programs can be transformative for teens, very few teens get the help they need in order to heal. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, of 789 teens who had an opioid dependence issue, only 16 to 17 percent got any help for that issue at all. It’s a sad little statistic, and it’s particularly devastating as so many teens who don’t kick the habit during adolescence go on to continue to abuse drugs as adults. Their lives may be shortened or just miserable as a result, even though there may be a solution that could help.
At Muir Wood, we hope to transform these statistics, one young man at a time. Our treatment program, located in Northern California, specializes in helping young men who have addictions to all sorts of substances, including prescription drugs. We provide intensive help that’s centered on the family unit, providing both boys and their parents with intensive education as well as helpful counseling. We provide experiential therapies, including hiking outings, that can help boys to access their inner strength and resolve. We also offer intensive counseling at the beginning of the treatment program, to ensure that we’re aware of all the issues our clients might have.
Our approach is intensive, and it works. If you’d like to know more, please download our admissions packet, or call our central intake number in order to speak with a counselor. We can answer your questions or schedule an appointment for your son to get the help he needs. Please call.
Teen Alcohol Rehab: Understanding The Need For Change
While parental encouragement will be vital in this effort, and teens may be a little afraid to move forward without the support of their parents, alcohol addiction treatment programs may also be required. Teens will need to learn new skills, develop new ways of thinking and practice impulse control in order to avoid a relapse to addiction. These are lessons parents might not be able to provide on their own.
When toddlers stand upright, ready to make their momentous first steps, parents are there, holding their arms open wide. Little ones are often afraid to leave the safety of crawling, and they may rely on the loving encouragement of their parents as they muster up the courage to shift their weight from one chubby foot to the other. It’s a memory parents hold dear, and it’s one they may call to mind whenever they want their children to take a leap, be brave and try something new. For parents with alcoholic children, this image may be particularly poignant. They’d like their children to take steps forward, leaving their alcohol addictions behind and walking toward a brighter future. While parental encouragement will be vital in this effort, and teens may be a little afraid to move forward without the support of their parents, alcohol addiction treatment programs may also be required. Teens will need to learn new skills, develop new ways of thinking and practice impulse control in order to avoid a relapse to addiction. These are lessons parents might not be able to provide on their own.
Understanding the Model
About 16 percent of adolescents who need help for addiction are alcohol abusers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Addiction treatment programs don’t tend to sequester addicted people based on the substances they use, so people who are addicted to alcohol might be in the same facility that provides treatment for a marijuana addiction. Many programs that are for teens, however, don’t treat adults. Adolescent addicts have different issues, learning methods and life skills issues, and they need to receive care in programs that are sensitive to their developmental state. There are many programs like this all across the country, and they can be of incredible help as teens learn to leave an addiction behind.
Alcohol rehab programs are customizable, ensuring that teens have access to the help they’ll need for their individual problems. Just as no two teens are alike, no two addiction treatment programs are exactly alike. However, there are a few elements that are often included in any alcohol rehabilitation program provided for teens, including:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Family therapy
- Support groups
- Relapse prevention
- Individual Counseling
Teens can develop alcohol addictions in response to a wide variety of factors, including previous trauma or mental illnesses. Individual counseling sessions are designed to help teens explore their triggers for alcohol abuse, and learn more about how they can deal with these issues without leaning on alcohol. Cognitive behavioral therapy might be helpful in this effort. Here, teens are partners with their therapists, and the two look at the alcohol abuse as a problem they can solve together, in time. They identify the areas of weakness in which the teen is likely to turn to alcohol, and they come up with a plan the teen can use to deal with the weakness without drinking. Teens who drink to suppress memories, for example, might learn how to examine those memories and experience the pain without feeling as though it’s a problem to be solved. The memories might come in, wash through and then move out. Teens who can learn how to do this might not need to abuse alcohol in order to feel better.
Cognitive behavioral techniques like this can be helpful for teens who have traditional alcohol addiction issues, but they can also be helpful for teens who have mental illnesses in addition to addictions.
In a study of the issue, published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, researchers found that teens with mental illness who were provided with cognitive behavioral therapy had “significantly lower” positive urine tests for drugs than teens who were provided with another form of therapy. It’s clear that a problem-solving approach can resonate with teens and help them to leave addictive behaviors behind, no matter what might be triggering that addiction.
Alcohol treatment programs are designed to help teens pick up skills, and practice is sometimes vital as people learn how to swap out one behavior in favor of another. Teens can role-play with a therapist in their private sessions, of course, but they might also benefit from the opportunity to work with their peers and test their skills in a setting that’s slightly more challenging and a bit less safe. Group counseling sessions could provide teens with this opportunity. A therapist will be firmly in charge, but the teens might be asked to form groups and practice the lessons they’ve learned in their individual sessions. Teens might learn how to resist peer pressure to drink, handle harsh words or criticisms without feeling the need to drink or how to talk freely in front of strangers without feeling the need to drink beforehand. These sessions are remarkably effective in helping teens firm up their skills and continue to learn about addiction, and alcohol rehab programs might require teens to participate in sessions like this on a regular basis.
As much as teens might want to be independent creatures that don’t rely on anyone else for help, they do live in family units and they lean on their parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives for support, care and understanding. Families are organisms, and each person within the family has something unique to contribute to the welfare of the group. Teens who abuse alcohol may distort their families, albeit inadvertently, and this damage could make recovery more difficult. For example, teens who drink may lie to their parents regularly. When these teens are sober, their parents may still expect lies, on some level, and they may treat every statement the child makes with incredulity. A teen living under a cloud of suspicion like this might feel as though drinking is reasonable and expected, and a relapse could quickly take place.
Family therapy is designed to allow the family to come together to identify the damage the addiction has caused, and determine how they might change patterns in order to increase the happiness they might all feel. Some changes might be major, involving communication styles, trust and responsibility. Others might be minor, involving rituals and patterns. For example, a study outlined in the journal Family Relations found that rituals can protect children from alcoholism, even if they’re as simple as eating dinner together each night or greeting returning family members in the same way each day. The rituals become something the child can count upon, reducing distress. Family therapy might help the group come up with a few daily or weekly rituals the whole group might enjoy.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) plays a unique role in alcohol treatment programs. Unlike therapy sessions in which a counselor is involved and the lessons are somewhat predetermined, peers who share a common addiction and a desire to heal run support groups like AA.
The group uses a formalized, 12-step program of healing which provides people with the opportunity to:
- Examine their addictions
- Make amends for past transgressions
- Ask for help
- Help others
Staying involved in AA could provide people with the skills they need to keep a relapse to drinking from becoming a reality.
Participants are also provided with a mentor, or “sponsor,” who is typically available around the clock if the person feels as though a relapse to addiction is imminent. Later in the recovery process, participants might also be allowed to become sponsors, helping someone new to recovery learn how to keep an addiction at bay. It’s often said that regular participation in AA and a willingness to “work the program” is associated with long-term sobriety. Studies seem to bear this out. In one study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 79 percent of those who went to over 200 AA meetings per year were still sober five years after treatment, compared to 43 percent of people who used AA during the 12 months after treatment and then stopped attending meetings.
Most teens begin attending AA meetings while they’re enrolled in their formal alcohol rehab programs, and they’re asked to continue to attend meetings in the community when their intensive addiction treatments are complete.
A study in the journal Adolescence suggests that teens with less parental involvement while in treatment are more likely to feel affiliated with their AA groups, but parents who are very involved can work to foster affiliation with their children. They can drive the child to meetings, for example, or help the teen to find appropriate meetings that contain people the teen feels comfortable with. A little experimentation and encouragement might be just what the teen needs in order to fully utilize this valuable recovery resource.
The ultimate goal of any addiction treatment program is to help the person avoid the lure of addictive substances in the future. Addictions can be remarkably sticky, however, and they can seem to recur months after the person thought the problem was gone for good. It’s called a relapse, and while it’s unfortunate, it’s common. Addiction treatment programs try to help by providing their clients with specific relapse-prevention skills they can put into place when they sense danger. For teens, many of these skills revolve around peer pressure.
According to the Century Council, 61 percent of teens say they drink in the homes of their friends, when those parents are away. Teens who are invited to spend time with friends might need to learn how to say “no” to a drink, or they might need to learn how to avoid all unsupervised visits until they’re stronger in recovery. Role-playing could be vital in this effort. Teens might also need to learn how to avoid situations in which adults are drinking. Even if these adults are indulging legally, watching the action could make teens more likely to relapse.
Those teens who do take a sip of alcohol aren’t condemned to a full return to alcoholism. They will need to return to therapy, however, in order to determine why they chose to drink and what they might need to do in the future if they’re provided with the same opportunity. Touchup counseling sessions, increased support group attendance and parental guidance could be just the ticket that keeps a slip from becoming a slide back into alcoholism.
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Choosing the right alcohol rehabilitation program can seem difficult for some parents, as they might not know what attributes to look for and what resources to demand for their children. If you have questions about care for your teenage son, we’d like to help. At Muir Wood, we provide treatment programs that are designed to assist with all sorts of addictions, and we’re happy to outline the techniques we use. We can tell you about our clinical staff members, our outdoor therapy program and our relapse prevention program. Any question you have we’d like to hear. Just call our toll-free line to speak with a representative.
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