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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Finding the Right Treatment for Your Teen

You can help find the right treatment for your teen and help him or her succeed during and after treatment.

  • Get the right treatment. Talk with a health professional about treatment options in your area. Adult programs don't meet the needs of teens. They usually stress long-term health and relationship effects of substance abuse, which is not a concern for teens. If your teen needs to be placed in an inpatient or outpatient program, look for a program with the features he or she needs. These may include a school program or opportunities for parental involvement.
  • Be involved in the treatment and aftercare program. Let your teen know that you support him or her. It may take a long time for your teen to reestablish trust, to be forgiven by you, and to forgive himself or herself.
  • Get help for your family. Talk with a health professional about help for you and your family. Your family members need to know that they did not cause the disease, but that their behavior can affect the disease. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen may be very helpful for family members.
  • Help establish a direction. Having a sense of direction in life is important for your teen to remain drug-free. Treatment usually includes help to identify talents and strengths. These can be used to find healthy interests, hobbies, and jobs.

Treatment for level of use

The type of treatment your teen gets will depend on how bad his or her substance problem is.

  • Experimenting. If your teen has started experimenting with substances, education through a school or community program may be all he or she needs. Some schools have programs for students with alcohol and drug use problems that provide support and drug education.
  • Weekly use. If your teen is abusing a substance at least weekly, some form of treatment is usually needed. It's important to pay close attention to your teen's concerns, which may be related to emotional or self-esteem problems. Find activities that your teen can substitute for substance use. Treatment helps motivate the teen to stop using substances and to learn skills to refuse drugs in the future. Family counseling should also be a part of treatment.
  • Dependence on alcohol or drugs. Your teen will need treatment in a structured program and may need medical help for withdrawal symptoms. If your teen is addicted to heroin or another opiate, he or she may be referred to a methadone treatment program. These programs use the medicines methadone, buprenorphine, or antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) to help people cope with the withdrawal symptoms caused by opiate use.
  • Dependence on tobacco. Your teen can get help to quit and prevent serious health problems. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
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