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What Addiction Treatment Options Are Available for Teens?

Adult woman speaking with a teenager boy

Maybe you already know that your adolescent son or daughter needs some help dealing with a substance abuse problem. You probably still have a lot of questions. How intense should the treatment be? Will he or she be able to live at home while being treated? And what about the teen’s schooling (or job)?

Thankfully, there are several different options for substance abuse treatment for your teen. Here is a brief primer on what is available:

  1. Detoxification. This is the initial step in almost all treatment programs. “Detox” is the process of waiting for the drugs and the toxins to exit the body (which can be challenging for your teen). This can be overseen by a health care professional on an outpatient basis or supervised around-the-clock at a treatment facility. However, detoxification alone does not address the underlying causes of addiction.
  2. Outpatient treatment. This is the most discreet and least disruptive option for substance abusers. Patients see a therapist, counselor, and/or a psychiatrist one or more times per week, and they are also encouraged to attend group meetings or support groups. They can live at home and continue to work or go to school.
  3. Intensive outpatient treatment. As the name implies, this is similar to outpatient treatment but involves a greater time commitment, usually of a few hours each day. Patients may still be able to engage in most or all of their day-to-day activities. Some of these programs are offered during evening hours.
  4. Day treatment. Also known as “partial hospitalization,” this approach makes patients view treatment as a “full-time job.” They receive treatment for six to eight hours each day for roughly two weeks but can return home in the evenings. In addition to individual and group counseling, patients undergo psychotherapy and medication management with the goal of stepping down to outpatient treatment after the regimen is completed. 
  5. Residential treatment. This is what most people identify as “rehab,” where the patient lives in a drug treatment facility for around 30 days. During this time, the full spectrum of treatment methods is administered along with complementary programs like 12-step plans, art therapy, and other group exercises and one-on-one counseling. Rehab patients must usually transition to outpatient programs once they move out of the facility.
  6. Sober living. This is a much more long-term approach where the patient lives with other recovering substance abusers in a non-hospital setting known as a “therapeutic community.” In addition to counseling, medication management, and therapy, patients focus on “resocializing” themselves back into a normal life routine that is devoid of drugs or alcohol. Residents may also receive employment services or life skills training onsite.
Group holding hands and smiling

During most of these treatment regimens, patients will undergo random drug testing to see if they are remaining compliant. This is especially true if the person interacted with the criminal justice system and is undergoing treatment as a condition of his or her sentence.

For parents, the very first step is to have the teen assessed by a physician or other healthcare professional to see which treatment option is best suited for him or her. Once a desired level of care has been established, the parent and teen can begin the process of detoxification and locating a clinic or facility to administer the treatment. Many health insurance plans cover certain types of substance abuse treatment, so parents can check with their insurer to see what their policy offers.

The least prudent option when dealing with a teen addiction is procrastination. Forgoing treatment in the hopes that the problem with “take care of itself” is unwise and possibly dangerous to the health of your teen. So do not wait; the sooner you take action to get help for your addicted teen, the better the odds are of a complete recovery.

For help with choosing the appropriate level of treatment for your teen, contact us today.

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