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Teen Mental Health & Addiction Treatment During COVID

Written by: Stacey Henson Edited by: Melissa Carmona graphics of teens wearing masks

Rehab facilities are taking steps to improve safety and accessibility to help teens who are struggling with mental health symptoms and substance use during the pandemic.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is causing substance use to rise and mental health to decline in America. Millions are facing financial hardships as a result of unemployment, and people of all ages are struggling with uncertainty, isolation and fear. 

While children and teens may not have to worry about paying bills, they still face many unique challenges during the pandemic. The feelings of uncertainty and isolation can have an even greater effect on adolescents, who are more sensitive to routine changes than adults. 

Mental health symptoms can lead to substance use as a way to cope, so it’s important to be aware of signs of drug or alcohol use and addiction in teens. If a child is struggling with substance use, there are fortunately many options for treatment — even during the pandemic.

The Pandemic’s Mental Toll on Teenagers

Children are already prone to mental distress that occurs as they grow up. However, the pandemic has created even more factors that can cause mental health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents face pandemic-related challenges like:
  • Routine changes: Young people can’t go to events, see friends or be social in the same ways as before.
  • Learning changes: At-home learning may be ineffective for some children, and others may lack adequate resources for remote education. Additionally, it can be fatiguing to attend classes virtually.
  • Missed life events: Events like graduations, birthday parties, proms, vacations and many others have been canceled.
  • Loss of security: Parents may struggle to afford rent, groceries or other necessities.
According to a survey by The Recovery Village, 75% of parents say the pandemic has impacted their children’s mental health. Around 60% reported signs of anxiety, while 53% reported signs of depression.

Signs of mental health struggles may include:
  • Declining school performance
  • Severe worry or anxiety about normal activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Severe mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical concerns

Teen Substance Use During COVID-19

Mental health disorders often occur alongside substance use, as people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate mental health symptoms. Research has found that the number of adolescents who use substances actually decreased during the pandemic in Canada. However, teens who already use substances like marijuana and alcohol are using them more often. 

The research shows that increased free time played a role in increased substance use. Additionally, the researchers believe that adolescents are likely using substances to cope with isolation, COVID-19 fears and other negative feelings.

Signs of Drug Use in Teens

Signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol use in teens may include:
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Moodiness
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Lying
  • Changes in friend groups
  • Irritability
  • Episodes of extreme hyperactivity
  • Problems with school or truancy
  • Lethargy
  • Stealing
  • Using incense or perfume to hide odors
  • Sullen demeanor

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment for Teens During the Pandemic

The best addiction treatment facilities are accredited, licensed organizations with a proven track record. Their staff should include a wide range of professionals, including addiction specialists, licensed therapists, counselors, psychologists and others trained in addiction treatment and care. The facility should provide evidence-based treatment and include a full continuum of care, beginning with medical detox and ending with long-term aftercare. However, it’s also now important to find a facility that keeps patients safe and healthy during the pandemic.

What to Look For in a Drug Treatment Center for Teens During COVID

When choosing a treatment facility during COVID-19, look for one that includes added layers of security to prevent virus transmission. At Next Generation Village, this includes increased sanitation protocols, required face masks, preparedness plans for positive cases, health screenings for staff and patients, reduced patient numbers, smaller group activities and similar measures.

Many treatment centers are beginning to offer telehealth services, which helps improve both accessibility and safety. Next Generation Village provides a telehealth app that connects clients to professional therapists and addiction counselors, allowing teens to receive life-saving mental health services when they need it most. We also offer free online recovery chat rooms, which let support groups gather together to have meetings safely and remotely.

Paying for Teen Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment

Many states, including Florida, have policies that require health insurance providers to cover certain telehealth services. However, it’s still important to contact your insurance provider or the treatment facility to ensure that telehealth services like mental health or addiction treatment will be covered. Next Generation Village and other locations in the Advanced Recovery Systems network accept insurance from many providers; find out if yours is accepted by using our insurance verification tool.

Teen Addiction Treatment in Florida

Next Generation Village is a substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment facility that caters specifically toward teens aged 13 to 17. Our individualized treatment programs address addiction as well as underlying mental health concerns, allowing teens to begin healing in all aspects of their lives. We also work closely with families to help improve communication and address issues that may be present within the home.

If your child is struggling with substance use or co-occurring mental health concerns during the pandemic, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your teen.

Sources: 

White, Martha. “Latest jobs report shows long-term unemployment still on the rise, worrying economists.” NBC News, November 6, 2020. Accessed November 8, 2020.

Youth.gov. “Mental Health.” Accessed November 8, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit – Adolescence.” August 20, 2020. Accessed November 8, 2020. 

Youth.gov. “Warning Signs.” Accessed November 8, 2020.

Dumas, Tara; et al. “What Does Adolescent Substance Use Look Like During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Examining Changes in Frequency, Social Contexts, and Pandemic-Related Predictors.” Journal of Adolescent Health, September 2020. Accessed November 8, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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