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How to Seek Help for Your Teen’s Substance Abuse

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Realizing your teen has a problem with substance abuse is beyond terrifying, and it is often hard to know what to do, or where to turn for help. Although participating in drugs and alcohol is not always an indicator of something serious, it can easily spiral out of control; therefore, it is essential to act fast, and find appropriate help for them.

Early Intervention

As soon as you suspect your teen is involved with drinking alcohol or taking drugs, it is important to intervene. Although experimental use at this age is common, and often nothing to be overly concerned about, it is crucial that you step in quickly; casual dabbling with peers can all too easily lead to a serious addiction.

Sometimes a gentle word of advice is all it takes for teens to realize that their behavior is perhaps irresponsible, nipping substance abuse in the bud. However, if it has gone beyond this, and is bordering on (or in the full throes of) dependency, then just deciding to stop may no longer be an option for your teen, and immediate help is required.

Seeking Initial Help

Your first port of call when concerned about substance abuse is your general physician, who will initiate drug screenings. These will generally include taking blood tests to determine what your teen has been using. They will also enquire about substance abuse habits, asking how much they are using, and whether they have acted irresponsibly under the influence, such as driving or other risky behaviors. This will help the physician determine how serious the substance abuse is, and the necessary course of treatment. Sometimes, your doctor may be unable to offer specialist help, and will refer you to someone with more relevant experience. Alternatively, contact an organization such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, who can advise of specialist doctors in your area.

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Finding the Right Treatment

If your doctor feels that treatment is required, then it is time to investigate which is the most appropriate for your teen. Because the nature of addiction is so complex, and varies tremendously between individuals, finding the treatment that is tailored specifically towards your teen’s needs is essential. To ascertain what their requirements are, you will need to consider factors such as level of intoxication, likely intensity of withdrawal, comorbid conditions, home environment and chances of relapse. The following examples are possible ways your teen will be treated:

  • Outpatient Treatment Center.

Receiving help through an outpatient center is the most common method for treating substance abuse in teens, and is particularly successful in less severe cases, and for those with a stable family environment. Outpatient help involves providing appointments and sessions that occur once or twice a week for moderate care, with intensive treatment consisting of several hours a day, and more often than twice a week. Treatment is either individual, or in group sessions, although many experts feel that the latter is not always particularly beneficial for teens.

  • Daycare Treatment.

Daycare treatment is also referred to as “partial hospitalization,” and offers a similar process to an outpatient center, but it usually an option for teens who are experiencing a particularly severe substance abuse disorder, where more intensive treatment is recommended. Teens spend the whole day, for at least five days a week, at the daycare facility, returning home in the evenings and at weekends.

  • Residential Care.

This option is generally only considered for teens with serious addictions where they require 24-hour specialist support to help with their recovery, and is often a last resort. These treatment centers are recommended for teens with other underlying issues such as psychiatric disorders, or those that perhaps have a less stable family environment. Treatment generally involves teaching teens new coping strategies, and building on personal responsibility. The amount of time spent in a residential facility can either be short, or long term.

[For more helpful articles, read the Guide to Therapeutic Programs & Services.]

Because treatment is so individual, it is important to carry out in-depth research, especially before deciding on a residential center. Although there are wonderful organizations that set teens on the right track towards recovery, sadly, there are also many that are businesses, with profit their main concern. In fact, some experts feel that residential centers are never an ideal environment for teens, creating more problems than they help, so before embarking upon a treatment plan, always seek guidance from trusted medical sources. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is an organization offering invaluable research-based guidance for substance abuse treatment.

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Written by Tracy Morgan

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Tracy Morgan is a freelance writer living in Hjärup, Sweden. The proud mum of two amazing boys, Tracy loves baking and when pushed, admits to a weakness for reality shows.

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