Undergoing a search for the right treatment center for a teenage child is a more common journey for parents than previously thought. In 2016, four percent of adolescents between 12 and 17 years old had a substance use disorder and approximately 180,000 adolescents between 12 and 17 years old were treated at a treatment center for substance abuse. The growing epidemic of opioid misuse is exponentially impacting teens with every passing year.
Though signs and consequences of substance abuse are similar between teens and adults, there are programs that specialize in the specific emotional and intellectual needs of teenagers.
Receiving treatment with peers of the same age can foster a safe and supportive environment for adolescents that can nurture long-lasting friendships and a support system after treatment. Searching for the right treatment for your teen can be overwhelming and terrifying. There are so many options that can be tailored to meet your child’s treatment needs.
Experimentation or Addiction?
Before beginning a search for a adolescent rehab or treatment center for your teen, it is recommended to first learn what substances your teen is using, the degree of the use and if there are signs of addiction or chemical dependency. There is a difference between experimenting with substances and being addicted to them.
Addiction is when your teen is no longer using and abusing a substance occasionally but now physically needs to use it and depends on its use. Like adults, healthy, smart and high functioning adolescents are susceptible to drug addictions. By knowing the signs and symptoms, parents can look out for red flags in their teens’ behavior before misuse evolves into addiction.
In addition to a drug test that will give you clear evidence of substance use, observing sudden changes in your teen’s behavior as described in the following list will give you an idea if your child is abusing drugs or alcohol and has become addicted. It is normal for teens to experience fluctuations in mood and disposition. A consistent pattern of unpredictable behavior may indicate that your teenager has a substance use disorder.
Different substances can produce different changes in behavior. Behavioral changes that indicate ongoing misuse or addiction include:
- Changes in sleeping and eating: A change in appetite is often one of the first signs of substance abuse. Depending on the type of substance being used, your teen’s appetite may either increase or decrease. If your teen frequently smokes marijuana, she may want to eat more frequently or increase her portion. If your teen is abusing stimulants, there might be a sharp decrease in appetite. Extreme changes in sleep patterns like staying up all night or sleeping for long periods during the day may also be an early sign of substance misuse or addiction.
- New friends and neglecting long-lasting friendships and social circles: Teenagers struggling with addiction may change friends and no longer socialize with friends they have known for a long time. They may stop spending time with old friends in order to hide their substance use and create new relationships with those who also use drugs or alcohol. Other changes in behavior include breaking curfew and lying about their location.
- Neglecting personal grooming and hygiene: Teenagers are known for being overly conscious about their appearance, wardrobe choices, and overall look and hygiene. Teens who are using or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol often neglect personal hygiene, may shower less, and lose interest in style and clothing.
- Frequently asking for money: Teens with a substance use disorder tend to ask for money without communicating a reason. They may also be secretive about spending habits. A common behavior for both teen and adult addicts is to ask regularly for small amounts of money or lie about how much they need for a necessity so they can keep the extra money.
Other signs of substance abuse and addiction include:
- Increased anger and aggression and getting into conflicts.
- Receiving disciplinary action at school.
- Signs of antisocial behavior and withdrawing from family and friends.
- Skipping classes and neglecting school work which result in a drop in grades.
- Losing interest in hobbies and after school activities and sports.
- Finding drug and alcohol paraphernalia like pill bottles, pipes, needles, liquor bottles.
Specific Signs of Substance Abuse in Teens
Though signs of abuse and addiction are similar regardless of the substance, there are some drugs that offer specific warning signs:
Marijuana: Symptoms of ongoing marijuana use include excessive sleep, overeating, weight gain, loss of motivation, decreased interest in hobbies and activities, red and glassy eyes.
Depressants (Examples include Xanax, GHB, and Valium): Symptoms of the abuse of depressants include blurry vision, drunk-like behavior, clumsiness, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, sleepiness and poor judgment.
Stimulants (Examples include cocaine, amphetamines, crystal meth): Symptoms of the abuse of stimulants includes hyperactivity, dilated pupils, irritability, euphoria, excessive talking, anxiety, going long periods of time without eating or sleeping, dry mouth and nose.
Opioids (Examples include heroin, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone also known as OxyContin, Roxicodone, or Percocet, hydrocodone also known as Vicodin, Lortab, or Norco): Symptoms of opioid abuse include contracted pupils, wearing long sleeves and long pants even during warm weather to hide marks from injecting, excessive sweating, coughing and sniffling, sleeping at unusual times and nodding off, twitching, loss of appetite, noticeable elation or euphoria, slowed breathing, constipation.
Hallucinogens (Examples include PCP and LSD): Symptoms of the abuse of hallucinogens include dilated pupils, aggression, frequent mood swings, bizarre and irrational behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, slurred speech, confusion, absorption with objects or self, detachment from others.
Inhalants (Examples include aerosols, glues, and vapors): Symptoms of the abuse of inhalants include loss of memory, interrupted thought, watery eyes, frequent headaches, nausea, secretions from the nose, rashes around the mouth and nose, poor muscle control, anxiety, drowsiness, drunk-like appearance, drastic change in appetite.
How to find a residential adolescent treatment program
Once parents have identified that their teens have a substance use disorder, it can be daunting to know where to begin to find treatment. Your child’s pediatrician and school counselor may help navigate available options. A drug treatment professional can help diagnose your teen’s drug use or addiction and suggest the most effective treatment approach. Every adolescent is different and so is their treatment plan. What may work well for one teen might not be the most effective journey for another teen.
Though outpatient rehab has benefits, some experts recommend that inpatient treatment is the best, most effective course of treatment for teens.
Residential treatment usually entails staying in a facility that offers both treatment and accommodations onsite, for 28 to 90 days or longer. During that time, the teens take part in group and individual therapy to identify the underlying causes of addiction, discover negative beliefs and issues that led them to drug use, and build tools and skills that will help them remain drug-free after treatment.
The idea of residential treatment for adolescents can be scary for parents. Most inpatient facilities have family days where family members are encouraged to participate in therapy sessions. Residential programs that cater to teens are designed to stabilize them so they can be reunited with families as soon as possible. The most effective programs collaborate with families and ensure families feel like they are an active part in their child’s treatment.
While in treatment, teens will live in an environment that supports sobriety and offers them structure and protection from the temptations of the outside world. Adolescent residential treatment programs are located throughout the country. There are also residential treatment programs that accept both adults and teens. Your family may prefer to find a program close to home while others may opt for a program further away from their teen’s daily life and routines.
Aside from insurance coverage, deciding on where to admit your teen and how far to travel depends on many considerations. Does the treatment center allow visitations after a certain time? Will you be able to travel to that facility easily? Research has shown that out of state facilities can benefit patients because it decreases the chance of a patient leaving early.
What happens in residential treatment?
Before a teenager enters a residential rehabilitation program, they are evaluated by staff during detoxification to determine the best course of treatment. An individualized course of treatment depends on what substances the patient is addicted to. Often teen clients are addicted to more than one drug or they use drugs and alcohol. In these instances, treatment professionals craft a poly-substance dependence treatment plan.
All clients in an adolescent treatment program should be treated as individuals with their own specific circumstances and have a written treatment plan that includes specialized care for dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders to meet their needs.
Since teens are especially vulnerable to the lasting dangers of substance abuse because their bodies and brains are still growing and developing, adolescent clients in treatment go through a particular order of steps to overcome their addiction which includes:
- Detoxification with assistance from medications if necessary
- Commitment to cooperate with counselors during treatment
- Have co-occurring conditions assessed and diagnosed
- Monitoring and re-adjusting treatment plans
- Making sure a teenager does not have a relapse during treatment
- Attending one-on-one and group counseling sessions
- Attending daily mutual aid meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous
- Counseling sessions with relatives and friends
- Making aftercare plans for after residential treatment
- Having follow-up treatment plans after leaving a facility
Types of Counseling Offered
Counseling sessions for teenagers are held in both group and one-on-one settings. Eventually, parents, siblings, and friends also attend counseling sessions to help a teenager adjust to returning home or to school. Teens undergo several types of therapies in order to change their mental attitude when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
Some of the therapies include Motivational Interviewing (MI), multidimensional family counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and motivational incentives.
Teenagers seeking detox and rehabilitation may also have co-occurring conditions that make treatment more complex. Some of these conditions include panic, social, and generalized anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, dysthymia and depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity attention disorders and more serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
While in treatment, a teenager may need medications, treatment, and counseling for both their substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health conditions. When a teenager has a co-occurring disorder, a rehabilitation program will probably need to last longer. Clinicians will monitor and adjust a teenager’s medications carefully in order to help them overcome their addiction while also treating a mental illness or mood disorder.
What to look for in an inpatient treatment facility
The most important factor when choosing a rehab center for your teen is knowing that the center chosen will effectively provide the services necessary for a successful rehabilitation. It is important to attend any scheduled visitations, and while in the facility, take note of how your child appears. For example, does your teen seem comfortable and do they appear to feel safe. Not all treatment centers may value making a profit over the best interest of your teen. To ensure the safety and well-being of your teen, here are certain characteristics in residential treatment programs you should look for before admitting your child:
- How long is the residential treatment program?
- Is the facility fully licensed? The federal law requires facilities that provide any type of treatment, including detox, therapy, treatment planning and rehabilitation, to be licensed.
- Is the facility accredited by CARF? CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, assesses treatment centers to determine the level of care they can administer. When a program has CARF accreditation, it means the rehab center has been assessed and meets the high standards of care requirements.
- Is the staff professional and well trained? When visiting potential rehab centers for your teen, it is important to pay careful attention to the treatment provided by the staff and how they interact with clients. Are clients comfortable with the staff? Does the staff exhibit genuine concern for the well being of their clients? Do clients appear to be comfortable and safe around the staff? Does the facility conduct background checks on all staff members including support staff? What credentials do the therapists and treatment professionals have?
- What is the facility’s success rate? When interviewing potential rehab centers, make sure to ask about their success rate. Generally, the higher the success rate is, the better the outcome may be for your teen.
- What condition is the facility? The facility should be clean, well-organized and have appropriate living quarters. What are the living and sleeping arrangements?
- What are the amenities? Amenities can include gym and exercise, recreational activities, off-site trips and events. Is there a gym and exercise program? A media center and access to the Internet?
- When in the day do clients receive schooling? Are computer and access to the Internet available for educational purposes only?
- What is the facility’s rules for personal cell phone and device use?
- What are meals like? Are high sugar snacks restricted?
- What is a typical schedule for clients? What time is lights out?
- How often can families visit and speak with a client? What are visitation hours?
- How do you include families in a child’s treatment?
- How will the facility communicate with parents and how often?
- Will you be kept up to date regularly about your teen’s recovery?
- Is the program teens only or are adults clients also admitted? It’s important that an inpatient treatment facility is able to cater to teens’ evolving emotional and intellectual needs and the professional staff understand how to care for an adolescent who in undergoing rapid hormonal changes.
- How will this program support my teen’s schooling? Parents are concerned if a long term residential treatment program can cause a teen to fall behind in school. Usually residential treatment programs for teens will offer tutoring and assign curriculum based classes and assignments.
- What aftercare is provided? Many inpatient treatment programs will have aftercare which means they offer groups and resources for patients who have been released from inpatient care so they can continue to receive treatment and therapy while returning to their lives.
Covering The Cost Of Your Teen’s Rehab
In 2014, the Affordable Care Act impacted the way in which most insurance companies approach mental health and substance use treatment. They are now legally required to offer coverage for these issues. However, it’s important to note not all policies are the same, especially when it comes to mental health care.
Before moving forward with deciding on a residential adolescent rehab, first speak with your insurance provider to determine if your child’s treatment will be covered. Many residential treatment centers accept insurance, but some insurance policies do not cover the cost of addiction treatment or may not cover out-of-state treatment. When you have determined that your teen will qualify for insurance coverage, you can then identify a rehab center that accepts your insurance. If a residential program doesn’t accept insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover addiction treatment, ask if the program offers a sliding scale fee that’s contingent on your income.
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