Overcoming drug and alcohol addiction is a tough enough problem for anyone to conquer, but there are several challenges that are specific to teen rehab, each of which are outlined here.
Treatment and a Lack of Maturity
This is one of the biggest challenges in teen rehabs, because the addicts and alcoholics who are attending are understandably younger and less mature. It can be hard for them to be serious enough to concentrate on things such as informative lectures, group therapy, and group exercises. For some teens, everything is still a big joke and they are not yet serious about their disease of addiction or about their chances of recovering. They are still more concerned with having fun or socializing than they are with saving their own life.
Here are a few teen drug rehab tips for parents. One of the tactics that has been used by some of the top tier teen rehabs in the industry is to mix younger people in with slightly older “young adults” that range up to their mid twenties. The strategy here is to try to raise the maturity level of everyone by adding in some young adults into the mix. This works fairly well and the younger addicts in treatment tend to look up to those who have more experience in the drug culture. Whether or not this actually translates into better outcomes across the board has not yet been closely studied.
One technique that many teen treatment centers employ is to use a “good cop, bad cop” routine with their therapists. Having one therapist who is essentially the disciplinarian allows the other therapists to play the “good cop” and make more meaningful connections with the clients. Because of the lack of maturity, the “bad cop” is always going to be necessary in order to reach some teens who do not respond to other tactics.
This is a problem with any drug treatment center, but it is especially problematic in a teen facility. This is because younger people have a greater tendency to glamorize their drug and alcohol use among their peers. Teens swap “war stories” and brag about how many drugs they consumed. This is very prevalent in teen rehabs and it creates a definite problem and barrier to successful treatment.
The problem with glamorization is that it shifts the focus of early recovery and leads the newly recovering addict into a state of depression. It is easy to remember the good times while the mind edits out the misery and pain of addiction. Constantly glamorizing the good times that we had sets people up for failure, because they will compare those good times to their present day feelings. In early recovery, people are not going to feel great, as they are making major adjustments and detoxing from various chemicals. Therefore, glamorizing drug use is typically against the rules in most teen rehabs, but this is very hard to monitor and even harder to enforce. Overall, it is yet another obstacle that a teen must work their way through in order to successfully recover.
A Lack of Surrender
It is very rare for a young person to completely surrender to their disease of drug addiction. The main reason for this is that they simply have not had enough pain yet in their life from using drugs and alcohol.
Addicts and alcoholics do not get clean and sober for the fun of it. Nor do they sober up in the hopes of a better life. Motivation for sobriety–in early recovery–is driven by pain, not by hope. This is an almost universal truth when it comes to early recovery. Addicts who are positively motivated tend to fail. Addicts who have been completely beat down to the point of surrender and are at their wits end actually have a chance at sobriety.
It is unfortunate that addicts are motivated almost entirely by pain but this is strongly backed up by the available evidence. Those who have not hit bottom do not do well in long term recovery. For a teen to hit bottom and really be at the point of full surrender is quite rare. They have to be ready to surrender total control of their life and find a new way to live. Again, it is rare to find this level of willingness unless the addict has suffered through tremendous pain as a result of their disease.
Dealing with Adolescence and Addiction through Adolescent Rehab
Another complicating factor with teen rehabilitation is the transitional period that comes with adolescence, and the various changes and hormonal shifts that this can bring with it. Unfortunately, catching the problem of addiction at this age does not lend itself to an easy and smooth change, like it might if the problem was caught at an earlier age. Younger children can be much easier to work with in terms of changing habits, but an adolescent addict will have tend to be a lot more stubborn when it comes to the idea of change. Teens who are going through this stage have become very headstrong in some cases, and will be particularly resistant to the concept of surrender.
Socialization, Peer Influence, and Finding New Friends in Teen Drug Rehab
What happens when a teen leaves drug rehab, clean and sober, only to return to the same environment, the same set of friends, and the same hang out places? They usually relapse. Why does this happen? It should be obvious that peer influence runs high at this particular age, and the environmental and social factors will tend to have a strong impact on teens who are just barely out of rehab.
This is compounded by the problem that most teens place an incredibly high importance on friendships in general, and are not going to easily walk away from all of their friends based on the fact that they are a bad influence on them. For most teens, facing the world without their friends is actually worse than facing the world without drugs and alcohol.
Therefore, any comprehensive teen drug treatment has to address these problems of peer groups, socialization, and making new friends. Without this critical factor addressed, most teens will quickly revert to their old peer group and end up returning to their drug of choice.
One way to address this is to push for long term teen rehab options. There, teenage drug addicts have the potential to recover and make new friends who are also in recovery, thus replacing their old peer group. Other solutions include spin off groups of 12 step programs that focus on younger people, and can possibly provide a new peer group for a struggling teen.
Ultimately, however, the teenage addict must still surrender completely to their disease in order to make the drastic changes necessary to accept a new peer group and discard their old one. This is still a major change that is almost as drastic as abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and cannot be underestimated in terms of the role that it plays in treating younger people.