When it comes to substance abuse disorders like addiction, things work little differently during our teen years. This is because we don’t reach physical, neurological, or emotional maturity until our mid twenties. Developing minds and bodies react differently to drugs, which is why we have to adjust our treatment approach for teenagers and their unique needs.
Drug rehab for teens is similar to rehab for adults, and makes use of some of the same measures including: detox assistance, individual and group therapy, life skills workshops, and help planning for long term recovery. However, rehab for teenagers is special because the programming will also include important activities to meet the Educational, Legal, Social and Developmental needs that teens have.
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First of all, teens and adults first pick up drugs for different reasons. Teens have a natural curiosity to try new things; the truth is most of us experimented with drugs or alcohol to some degree as teenagers. Although it’s not ideal since all drug use poses risks to developing brains, some experimentation is to be expected during the teen years. This normal amount of experimentation can gradually change into compulsive use, otherwise known as dependence. Adults on the other hand, usually already have experience with drugs and alcohol and begin to abuse these substances as a coping mechanism, leading to addiction.
Second of all, addiction looks different in teens than in adults. Research shows that teens develop a tolerance to drugs more quickly. This means that addiction moves faster for teens; to achieve the same initial high, they’ll need to increase their dosage faster than adults would.
One of the ways that we identify addiction in adults is to look for withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea, and anxiety that show up when we suddenly stop using drugs. Unlike adults, teens usually do not get any withdrawal symptoms, even once they’ve developed an addiction.
Since teenagers are going through a time of rapid development and initiation into the adult world, we need to consider the needs of this age group in addiction treatment. Look for a rehab facility that specializes in teenagers and young adults, they will have the resources to help your child:
Educationally: Specialized teen rehab centers usually have tutors on site, or teachers that hold regular classes; there’s no need to fall behind in school while in treatment. If applicable to your situation, look for a program that can help your child get back on track to graduate, earn their GED, or move onto higher education.
Legally: Teens who enter rehab frequently have a history of legal troubles due to their relationship with drugs and alcohol. Some facilities can work with you and the courts so your family can finally move on.
Socially: A teenager usually still lives in the family home, or has just recently left. Family bonds are extremely important in a teen’s recovery. Dysfunctional, codependent, or abusive and toxic relationships within this unit MUST be addressed, and the best place to do so is in Family Therapy.
Developmentally: During our teens, we’re getting our first glimpse of what adulthood is and how we’re supposed to get by independently. It’s a scary, difficult transition which takes a lot of trial and error. This is why teen rehabs will encourage and provide opportunities to learn new skills, contact employers, interview for jobs, explore career paths, and enjoy life without drugs. Ask the teen rehab center that you choose, how will you help my child grow into a sober, independent adult?
Imagine you’re going about your day as usual when you receive a call. It’s your teenage child’s school principal notifying you that your son or daughter was caught smoking weed in the bathroom AGAIN, and that they’re now at risk for expulsion or worse, legal trouble.
In moments like this, we’re so busy flying off the handle and doubling down on disciplinary measures that we might not recognize our child’s distress. Although addiction can lead to problematic behaviors like lying, hiding, and shirking responsibilities, remember that:
Addiction is not a choice
Addiction is not cured by more discipline
Addiction is not your fault
Before you punish your child, consider reacting with compassion instead. Seek out an expert in addictive disorders to help you plan your next steps.