The effectiveness of teen substance abuse programs relies on a collaborative effort between the program, the parents or family, and the adolescent. Successful programs must have the agreement and participation of the adolescent involved in substance abuse. Treating drug abuse is not an easy task, but there are a mix of programs out there determined to address the issue.
Tested and verified programs include behavioral approaches, family-based approaches, addiction medications, and recovery support services. Treatment can be provided for short periods of 12-16 weeks, but for some adolescents, longer treatments may be needed. The length and type of the program depend on clinical judgment to select the best approaches suited to the family and the abuser.
Four programs that treat teen substance abuse
Behavioral interventions designed for teens to actively participate in their recovery and learn to resist drug use are often successful. Therapists who provide incentives if a teen remains clean, use tools to modify attitudes and behaviors, and assist families in improving communication and interactions are often the most effective therapists.
Teens can learn to increase their life skills to handle stressful circumstances and deal with environmental issues that trigger cravings for drugs. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT protocols for groups give the teen the opportunity to use social reinforcement through peer discussion and incentives. CBT is effective when teens are introduced to various self-control skills, emotional regulations and anger management tools. Learning to refuse drugs is an integral part of CBT. This therapy can be used in-home, in group situations, and with medications to help with withdrawal symptoms.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy or MET involves counseling approaches to help an adolescent believe in a motivation program rather than being ambivalent. MET includes initial assessment of the teen’s enthusiasm to participate, followed by individual sessions with a therapist to help the teen participate in treatment. The treatment involves non-confrontational feedback.
The therapist directs the discussion, emphasizes the need for treatment, and encourages the teen to develop plans for change. Often an adolescent may resist this motivation at first, but the therapist is trained to respond neutrally rather than using contradiction and criticism.
Twelve-step therapy has been used for years with adult alcoholics as well as in therapy programs involving drug abuse. The program stresses participation from the offender and includes admitting that life is difficult, abstinence from drugs is needed, and willpower alone cannot overcome the addictions. Adolescent-specific 12-step programs are very successful in influencing a teen to stop using drugs and providing peer support.
The conventional medications used in treating drug addictions in adults are not FDA-approved to treat teen substance abuse. However, some healthcare providers use medicines that are “off-label” to give support to a teen addicted to opioids, nicotine, or alcohol.
Buprenorphine is a medication that can eliminate or reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. It provides a chemical reaction in the brain to reduce drug cravings and contradict the “high”. Only doctors with special certification may provide buprenorphine treatments, and this medication is only given to teens who are 16 and older.
Methadone also prevents withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings. Methadone has a long history of use in opioid treatment in adults, but it is only used in those adolescents who are between the ages of 16 and 18. A parent or guardian must grant permission for us.
Studies show that family-based approaches address more than just drug addiction behavior. These methods also get to the root of behavioral, mental health, peer networks, and problems in school. When the family is involved in treatment, success rates are higher.
Brief Strategic Family Therapy or BSFT is based on looking at the teens’ behavior problems that stem from unhealthy family interactions. A BSFT counselor establishes a relationship with each family member, observes the behavior, and assists the family in changing negative interactions. BSFT can be used in mental health clinics, drug abuse treatment programs, family homes, and treated as an outpatient intervention.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a scientifically proven family intervention for at-risk youth. The program is an intensive community and family-based agenda that helps with teen substance abuse and disruptive behaviors. MST counselors take the teens’ attitudes towards drugs and the family’s reaction toward the abuse problems and discuss them in a forum designed to be caring, supportive, and healing. The therapist may conduct sessions alone with the teen and with the family.
Recovery Support Services
After going through therapies, medications and family-based programs, a recovering adolescent will need recovery support services. The best support services involve peers, family members, mentors, and coaching.
Recovery high schools are specifically designed for those recovering from substance abuse. Usually, these schools are alternative school programs within the public-school system that allow teens to have support in a school surrounded by peer groups who are supportive of recovery efforts. '
Recovery community centers help recovering teens continue engagement in treatment by linking them with groups and one-on-one relationships with those who have direct experience with addiction recovery. Peer leaders provide coaching, make sure teens get to treatment, and help with activities to build alternative social networks.
Although there is no one size fits all treatment for teen substance abuse, there is a wide range of programs out there that can be used alone or with one another that can increase the chances of a successful recovery.
For more information on substance abuse, visit our substance abuse resource page by clicking here.