What Your Teen Can Expect in Addiction Treatment
Almost 8% of American teenagers need treatment for addiction or behavioral problems, according to the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse. That puts the number of teen addicts in the millions.
None of this matters when it is your child. Your child is not a statistic. Who can you turn to? What will addiction treatment be like? How will her day go in a therapeutic boarding school? Will my son learn more bad stuff from other teens in treatment? Will my daughter be able to stay off drugs or alcohol afterwards? If I bring him back home, will he fall back into his old crowd and destructive habits
The National Resource Center can help.
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Let's look at some answers to these questions.
Kinds of Treatment Centers
In general, there are three kinds of programs. Your child can live at home and take treatment on an outpatient basis, but the success rates are only about 30%. Success rates are better in residential programs because your child can start fresh in a substance-free environment, away from his current friends who drink and use drugs with him.
Wilderness therapy programs and therapeutic boarding schools. Wilderness therapy is similar to summer camp and often lasts less than three months. Physical activity is very intense: teens live outdoors and pitch tents, gather firewood, make their food, and hike for long periods of the day. Students participate in therapy such as group and individual counseling, journaling, stress reduction classes, and spiritual awakening through experiences of nature. The group should be small and led by counselors with good professional credentials.
Wilderness therapy "jump-starts" addiction recovery. Follow-up studies of participants indicated that two years later, up to 95% believed the experience was crucial to their eventual recovery. However, aftercare is very important, which may include a stay at a therapeutic boarding school or outpatient therapy from home.
Your child can remain in a therapeutic boarding school as long as required for recovery. These schools are very structured: every hour is scheduled with group or individual therapy sessions, academic classes, study time, or physical activity. Teens learn to understand their addictions and the dangers to their health as they complete middle or high school curriculum. They learn new methods to cope with stress. Studies indicate that that parents' fear that their child will learn new deviancy from other participants is a myth: young addicts tend to understand and help each other recover.
Steps to Recovery
Detoxification. If your teen has been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, he may have to go through "detoxification." Usually, detoxification or that process which rids the body of the addictive chemical has to be done in a hospital or medical setting because the addict may go through severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, fever, delirium, headaches and nausea. Detoxification can take as long as five days.
Admissions. When you choose a wilderness program or boarding school, you want to look for one that is licensed and regulated. Unlicensed ones are often "boot camps" where teens face harsh discipline and other unorthodox methods.
Look for a good ratio of staff to students. There should be medical doctors readily available. The credentials of the staff should be professional: look for psychiatrists, licensed therapists, counselors and teachers with graduate degrees. Class sizes should be small. Educators should know how to recognize learning disabilities, which are associated with substance abuse. The entire program should be individualized to meet your child's needs and to offer him both the chance to succeed academically and to develop new interests in hobbies, sports, and so forth. There should be a lot of opportunity for parental involvement, which is crucial to your teen's recovery.
While you are looking over the school, the school admissions team should be looking over your child. Not every school is right for every child. The admissions staff should not admit students with certain risk factors that predict likely failure.
Home Again. Once your child leaves a therapeutic environment, she may stay in treatment as an outpatient. This may include counseling sessions and attending Alcohol or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, often as many as four times a week.
Many teens suffer relapses, often as a many as five, before they completely give up substance abuse. The good news is despite setbacks, addiction treatment has become very sophisticated and has an excellent success rate for the majority of teens.