It’s a scary fact to acknowledge, but the truth is that anyone can become addicted to drugs regardless of their age. Drugs can be accessed and abused by everyone from the elderly to young teenagers. Treatment centers help thousands of teens each year, whether they’re young teens or legal adults. People in their twenties are also susceptible to addiction. In this day and age, when drugs are so easily accessible and the younger generation so hard to reach, what are recovery centers doing to keep up?
The Inaccessibility of Traditional Recovery Options
Many traditional recovery avenues are inaccessible to teenagers for a variety of reasons. These reasons commonly include:
- Teenagers cannot interrupt their school lives to enroll in an inpatient treatment program
- Teenagers lack the means to attend outpatient individual or group therapy
- Teenagers don’t want their parents to know about their addiction, and they cannot seek recovery without their parents finding out
- Teenagers are exposed to higher levels of peer pressure and at-risk situations
All of these are problems that adults often find themselves facing as well. In places with inadequate public transportation, adults without cars have a hard time keeping therapy appointments. Sometimes, people don’t want their families or friends to know that they’re seeking help for an addiction. An adult’s living circumstances might also expose them to an unusual amount of at-risk behavior.
But teenagers are particularly vulnerable. An adolescent’s brain is still developing; brain development continues well into a person’s early twenties. Adolescents have lower levels of impulse control and fewer critical thinking skills, which greatly increases the chances of relapse. It’s also common for adolescents to have problems without realizing that they’re problems.
Reaching out to the younger generation is crucial. With the advent of technology, there are more ways to communicate than ever before.
New Communication and the Younger Generation
Technology dominates the conversation about young people, whether that conversation is positive or negative. And it’s true that technology has shaped the lives of young people in ways that the previous generations have never witnessed. Networking and internet usage have allowed us to connect with anyone, anywhere, any time.
This wealth of communication has had both good and bad effects. The good: Teenagers have higher levels of freedom, the ability to get in touch with people without needing physical transportation, and more resources than ever before. The bad: Teenagers are also exposed to more potential triggers and negative influential behavior than ever before as well.
Recovery centers have been using online presences to reach teenagers who have no way of seeking in-person treatment. You’ve probably seen the proliferation of online mental health resources; there are even phone apps for therapy now. The following resources are available to teenagers through the internet:
- Massive archives of articles about different mental health issues, addiction, and recovery
- Online support groups and 12-step programs to anonymously encourage recovery
- Online forums with further mental health information
- 24/7 chat helplines available to addicts and people with mental health issues, often a part of a 24/7 phone helpline
When Online Support Isn’t Enough
Online support is fantastic. There haven’t been in-depth studies yet regarding the effectiveness of professional therapy conducted through text versus through in-person sessions. That said, “phone therapy” does have a variety of instant benefits: You always have access to it, you don’t need to keep an appointment time, and you don’t need to speak if you have issues with verbalization. That said, in many cases, online support won’t be enough to help with recovery from an addiction.
As previously noted, teenagers are particularly vulnerable to addiction because their brains are still developing. The habits you form in adolescence will set the stage for the rest of your life; you’re creating neural pathways that can never be erased. Teenagers are going through more mental growth and change than a person does at any other time period, except perhaps infancy through toddlerhood.
If a teenager doesn’t get support when they’re developing an unhealthy coping mechanism, that unhealthy coping mechanism might be their fallback for the rest of their life. Even if they work on unlearning that coping mechanism, the neural pathways will still be part of the brain. That makes recovery even harder.
For this reason, if you suspect your teenager has a substance abuse problem, it’s essential that you get them the help they need. An open, honest conversation is a good place to start. It’s important for your child to feel safe coming to you about their problems. A supportive home environment exponentially increases the chances of success in recovery.
Inpatient Treatment Programs for Teenagers
When it comes to recovery, the most pressing concern for most parents and teenagers is this: What about school?
High school is especially important for teenagers in their junior and senior year, as they’re submitting college applications and preparing for their adult future. Yet school also presents a problem. School-related stress can be the biggest environmental trigger for substance abuse; this is especially true for students who abuse prescription stimulants.
When a person’s environment is triggering enough stress to cause a relapse, the best course of action is inpatient treatment. But inpatient treatment affects a student’s ability to go to school.
Here’s the good news: Most teen treatment programs offer alternative schooling options so that your child won’t fall behind. Sometimes these options include working with your child’s current school to keep your child abreast of the work. Sometimes the treatment facilities have schools themselves; oftentimes, a teen-only recovery center will double as a school.
This means that inpatient recovery is still accessible to students. If school is a relapse trigger, students will learn to work in a controlled environment where they’ll learn coping mechanisms for stress.
For more information about teen recovery programs, you can call (866) 840-6411 to speak to one of our trained counselors.