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How Does Teen Addiction Treatment Differ from Adult Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment

  • Most people are aware of the concept of “age-appropriateness” regarding adults and adolescents. That is why there are separate approaches when it comes to areas like incarceration, sex education, and criminal responsibility. So why do some substance abuse treatment facilities try to address addiction in the same way for teens as they do for adults?

Addiction treatment for teens must differ from addiction treatment for adults. Here is why.

What Is In Their Head

In fairness, scientists once believed that a child’s brain was the same as an adult brain without the wear and tear. Only recently have scientists discovered that the human brain is still being formed well into a person’s twenties. As a result, teenagers tend to be less adept at weighing risk and processing information than adults.

This has major ramifications for treating addiction in teenagers. For starters, research has shown that teens are more susceptible to social and environmental influences regarding substance abuse than in adulthood, where genetic factors play a larger role. Also, teenagers’ brains might have a lower tolerance for drugs than adults’ fully-developed brains do.

Why They Are in Treatment

Another major difference for teen substance abusers is the circumstances under which they frequently start addiction treatment. While many adults actively decide to enter inpatient or outpatient treatment centers, teens often are not given much of a choice; they must agree to treatment or face consequences meted out by their families or the criminal justice system.

Not surprisingly, teens’ level of trust in adults tends to be low, which hinders efforts by doctors and other recovery center personnel to help them. This is especially true when teens turn to drugs or alcohol to escape unpleasant domestic situations where adults may be contributing to the teenagers’ distress.

Their Reliance on Family

On the other hand, teenagers tend to respond better to substance abuse treatment if they have parents and families who are fully engaged in the recovery process. Certainly, the support and love provided by family members are essential. On a practical level, treatment is more likely to succeed if the teen participates fully, which can be difficult if the family does not help with tasks like driving them to appointments, liaising with medical professionals, and funding treatment efforts.

Their Connection to Friends

Finally, the challenge of finding supportive peer groups can be a major hurdle for teenaged substance abusers. Often, teens may complete their drug treatment only to re-enter a school environment where their friends and classmates are still abusing drugs.

A key aspect of a teen’s recovery journey not only involves discovering peers who have gone through similar experiences, but also those with whom they actually have fun. Inside treatment facilities, these peer groups might contain an older teenager or a young adult who can act as a role model for the adolescent patient. In this environment, a teenager is more likely to overcome his or her ambivalence or resistance to substance abuse treatment and “buy in” to the entire recovery process.

Addiction treatment

Know the Difference

On average, between 55 and 90 percent of substance-abusing teens (depending on the study) relapse within the first year of completing a drug treatment program. However, if they can partake in a program that is tailored to teens instead of adults and receive additional support from their families and peer groups, they are more likely to embrace the principles of their recovery and remain drug-free going forward.

Are you concerned that your teen may be abusing drugs or alcohol? Contact us to see how we can help.

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