Picture of Dr. Sam Himelstein

Dr. Sam Himelstein

Co-Founder and CEO, Family Spring, Inc.

Treatment Options for Teen Drug Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has identified several signals that an adolescent may be abusing drugs: 

  • a change in peer group
  • carelessness with grooming
  • decline in academic performance
  • missing classes or skipping school
  • loss of interest in favorite activities
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • deteriorating relationships with family members and friends; and 
  • behaving differently for no apparent reason—such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile.

(source: drugabuse.gov)

Your child’s doctor or guidance counselor can help you decide if there may be an addiction issue and refer you to a drug abuse treatment provider to discuss appropriate treatment.

Depending on the severity of the drug use, your child may be referred to outpatient or inpatient treatment. 

  • Standard Outpatient Treatment typically occurs once or twice a week. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment typically takes a few hours a day, 3-5 days per week. 
  • Inpatient (Residential) Treatment is most appropriate for youth who would benefit from a highly-structured environment. This could be because of severe addiction, because of an unstable home environment, or because they have serious issues with their mental or physical health.

Your provider will likely refer to “The ASAM Criteria” when determining the most appropriate type and level of care. 

The ASAM Criteria are a set of guidelines developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine that take into account the individual’s:  

  • past and current experiences of substance use and withdrawal;
  • health history and current physical condition;
  • thoughts, emotions, and mental health issues;
  • readiness and interest in changing;
  • unique relationship with relapse or continued use; and
  • their recovery or living situation, and the surrounding people, places, and things.

(source: ASAM.org)

You may feel helpless, but there’s actually a lot you can do to support your child. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, “Including parents in interventions for adolescent substance abusers may be the best way to prevent them from relapsing after treatment.” (source: APA)

There are several ways you can help your child during substance use disorder treatment, including: 

  • providing moral and emotional support;
  • supporting the practical aspects of treatment, such as scheduling and making appointments;
  • providing needed structure and supervision through household rules and monitoring; and
  • participating in family-based drug abuse treatment to help improve communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution within the household. (source: drugabuse.gov)

Your child needing professional help and/or your participation in family therapy isn’t a judgment that you’re a bad parent. There are many reasons why your child and/or family could be struggling, including grief and multigenerational trauma.

If you’re located in California and need help determining if your child and/or family need professional help, contact Family Spring by submitting an inquiry at this link.

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