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Adolescent Treatment

Addiction has devastating effects on all who become addicted, but adolescents are especially vulnerable to the disease. The behaviors and thought processes associated with adolescence create a need for a specialized treatment to be effective.  Between peer pressure, awkward phases, bullying, academic pressures and athletic pressures, teens in modern society have many reasons to seek the escape of mood altering substances.  In recent years, the growing popularity of prescription pain killers and sedatives has exacerbated the problem of teenage addiction.

What is Adolescent Addiction

 As with any addict of any age, the diseae of addiction in teens is progressive and ultimately fatal when left untreated, and the earlier it can be arrested, the better. It is important to understand the difference between a teen addict and a teen who is simply being a teen. Some key signs of teen addiction are:

  1. Sudden and extreme shifts in academic or athletic performace
  2. Discovery of paraphernalia
    • lighters
    • straws
    • pipes
    • tin foil
    • needles
    • spoons
    • pill bottles
  3. Changes in appearance and behvior
    • Glassy or red eyes
    • droopy eyelids
    • track marks on arms, hands, feet, ankles, neck
    • lack of hygeine
    • nodding out (falling asleep in mid activity
    • paranoia

Some common signs of addiction can also be attributed to simply being a teenager, and are not necessarily indicators of a need for adolescent treatment. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Mood swings
  • Secrecy
  • Communication problems
  • Weight change
  • Disciplinary problems

The importance of being able to separate normal teenage behavior from addiction cannot be overstressed. Just because your teen is more difficult than your neighbor's doesn't mean yours is on drugs. If there is suspicion of teenage drug use, the best thing a parent can do is to go directly to their pediatrician or family doctor for a blood test or urinalysis. According to Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Children's Hospital Boston, parents should not use home drug tests to determine whether or not their child is using drugs. Drug testing is best left to the professionals, so nothing is missed, misread, or misinterpreted.

Often for teens, negative consequences as a result of their addiction are enough to scare them into accepting help. While this is not the case for every teen, some of the most powerful motivators for addicts in general are negative consequences, or when teen's life has become unmanageable enough to want to make a change.  Some examples of neagtive consequences teen addicts may face include:

  1. Dropping out of school
  2. Spending a night(s) in a juvenile or adult jail
  3. Being sent to a special school for troubled teens
  4. Overdosing and other medical health complications
  5. Losing contact with friends and loved ones
  6. Losing driving privileges

Some of these consequences may not present enough dyfsunction to sway adult addicts who stand to lose their homes, jobs, spouses and children. However, because many adolescents don't know of any world outside of the one they live, these consequences may be drastic enough to them to make them accept addiction help. For many young men and women still living at home, a threat to lose the roof over their heads can certainly be enough of a motivator to get into treatment.

The key with getting unwilling young people into adolescent treatment, as with any addict, is to bring their bottom to them and make the potential consequences of their refusal to get help severe enough for them to get treatment.

If it has been determined that there is a problem with adolescent addiction, finding treatment immediately is of the utmost importance. Since teenagers are still growing and their life experiences are different from working adults, their treatment and recovery may entail some special circumstnces not present in adult drug treatment and recovery.

Adolescent Treatment

Adolescent treatment is specifially for teenagers with addiction problems. Because adolescent life and experiece is vstly different from those of adults, teen addicts face a special set of challenges to become and remain sober from drugs. Some of these circumstances are:

  • Teenagers are less experienced in life than adults, and are therefore typically more inpatient, intolerant, and immature. It takes a special approach to reach an audience that is not only addicted, but also has a deminished capacity for selflessness and abstinence.
  • Because teenagers are still going through critical brain growth in many areas, drug use can stifle the normal, healthy development of important abilities like self control, abstinence, delayed gratification, and coping with disappointment.
  • Teenagers have not had time in the corproate world or the pressures of providing for a family, but their experiences in school, with friends, classmates, and athletic teammates present a set of challenges that make many teens feel misunderstood, which can lead to isolation and rejection of help.
  • Because many teens are still in school, treatment for their addiction may or may not need to continue their education as well, depending on the severity of their addiction.

What is Different About Adolescent Treatment?

Adolescent treatment is specially designed to address the specific challenges and needs of teengers, whether it's continuing education in a sober setting, or outdoor excursions to reinvigorate the mind, body and spirit. Many adolescent treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction focus on the individual teen to make him/her feel comfortable and in their element - which will ease the process for them to communicate openly and honestly. The following details the ways in which this is accomplished:

  • Most adolescent treatment programs separate genders to combat the racing hormones of attending teenagers. Cross gender attraction in addiction treatment can lead to dangerous distractions - and in teenagers, distractions can derail the entire treatment process.
  • Teenagers do not typically feel they can talk to other adults about problems they are having in school, with sports, in extra-curricular activities, and with social lives. The ability to have other teenagers with whom to talk about these subjects and not feel out of place is invaluable to many teen addicts.
  • Teen addiction treatment programs can relate to teens by offering activites more teen focused, like rock climbing or hiking over yoga.

Teen treatment has the same general outline as any adult treatment program, but with a more focused goal. In adolescent treatment, the main focus is not just on getting the addict sober and teaching essential survival skills to remain sober in the real world, but also working to get teens ready to go back to their school environment with the same people and pressures, yet do everything entirely differently. Adolescent treatment strives to accomplish this goal and can come in two main forms.

  1. Some adolescent treatment programs that encourage and allow young addicts to remain in high school, if they still have not graduated while remaining in the treatment program. This kind of adolescent treatment tries to combine the education of a treatment center without stopping the teens life to do so. Many parents prefer this option because of the importance of an education, at least on a high school level. This kind of adolescent treatment, however can have drawbacks for some kinds of addiction in adolescents. Not all cases of addiction are the same, and especially with adolescents, multi-tasking on such a high level can become overwhelming and ultimately undermine the entire program.  However for young addicts who are appropriate for the load, treatment in combination with education can be a very powerful tool to not only address addiction, but amplify the importance of education. 
  2. Because the task of performing academically added to the task of understanding and managing their addiction can be overwhelming for many teens, many other adolescent treatment centers are more like adult treatment centers, focusing entirely on addiction recovery and sobriety skills once treatment has been completed.  The largest difference between these centers and adult facilities is the variance in activities.  Adult programs may have scheduled activities like yoga, whereas an adolescent program may have hiking, horseback riding, or rafting instead.

One of the biggest differences between these kinds of adolescent treatment programs and adult treatment programs is the heightened level of sensitivity the counselors and therapists must have towards adolescents, taking into account their

  1. Natural immaturity
  2. Lack of responsibility
  3. Lack of experience
  4. Stunted developmental growth attributed to drug and alcohol abuse.

It takes a special kind of behavioral health care professional to do effective work in an adolescent treatment center because adolescents have special circumstances that separate their healing process from most adults.

Finding Adolescent Treatment

If you are looking for adolescent treatment for yourself or a loved one, please go to our treatment directory and search for the appropriate addiction help being sure to click the check box marked "adolescents" when selecting the kind of treatment you are looking for. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us directly at 1 and we will be happy to help however we can to find the best adolescent treatment program for your loved one.

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