When asked, some parents might claim that they can convince their teens to go to rehab programs when they utter four important words: “Because I said so.” While teens who are forced to attend rehab might place their bodies in treatment, their hearts might remain fixed on addiction, and the behaviors that support an addiction might be firmly fixed in place. Teens like this might go right back into drinking or using drugs when their treatment programs are complete, meaning that their time spent in rehab is not as effective as it could be. Convincing a teen to attend rehab isn’t as easy as forcing a child to submit, but there are ways parents can talk to their teens and persuade them that getting help could be the best thing they’ve ever done.
It can be difficult for teens to see the necessity of rehab when everyone they know is using drugs or drinking. Unfortunately, many teens fall into this camp. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 52 percent of high school students know of a place on or near school grounds where students get high while school is in session. When teens are surrounded by substance abuse in this fashion, the behavior seems almost natural and normal, and it’s hard for teens to see why they should be treated differently than their abusing peers.
Parents can help by reinforcing the fact that substance abuse simply isn’t allowed in the house, and that some people need help in order to stop abusing their substances. People are wired differently, with different genetic backgrounds and different susceptibility levels for addiction. As a result, some teens really can’t stop abusing substances, even though they might want to do so. The teen with an addiction might be genetically different than his/her peers, and treatment for that teen might be vital.
Breaking Through Denial
Teens might vehemently deny that they have addictions, claiming that they:
- Can stop anytime they want to
- Don’t use as much as parents think they do
- Can limit how much they use
- Only use because their friends do
It’s frustrating, but according to a study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, this kind of denial can be blamed, in part, on the brain cell damage an addiction can cause. Here, researchers found that addiction denial was strongest in people who had poor memory and other measures of brain health due to substance abuse. These people were unable to see the truth, because their brains weren’t functioning at a normal capacity. Dealing with this level of denial takes patience, but parents can help by reminding the teen of the specific addiction signs they’ve seen. Evidence of drug use, including paraphernalia, arrests, fights or physical illness are hard to deny, and they could help teens awaken to the reality and accept that they will need help in order to heal.
Teens can begin abusing substances for a variety of reasons, but some teens turn to substance abuse because they have very real mental health issues that they just don’t know how to address. For example, a study in the American Journal of Public Health found a link between depression and substance abuse, with the depression always appearing before the teens turned to substances. Pushing a teen like this into treatment could be frightening, as the teen might believe that treatment means a return to the misery.
Teens may not know how addiction treatment works, and parents can help by sharing what they know. It might be reassuring for teens to know that addiction treatments could help them live with a mental illness, and that their lives could improve with the proper type of care. Parents can also stress that they will be available, learning and growing right alongside the teen, so the teen isn’t being punished or sent away for bad behavior. It’s a step the parents are taking in order to make the teen feel better, not worse, and this kind of loving reassurance could be just the prompt a teen needs to accept help.
At Muir Wood, we’ve placed a significant amount of information about our programs online, so parents can walk through treatment options with their children together. The more the child knows, the less likely the child will be to panic and resist the idea of wellness. We also have operators available who are willing to answer any questions a parent or a teen might have about care. Please contact us to find out more.