Residential Treatment for Teen Substance Abuse Problems

Q & A with Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D.

Inpatient rehab is needed for serious substance abuse problems.
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No parent ever wants to admit their child may have a drug or alcohol problem. But the reality is, many teens are develop serious substance abuse problems.And sometimes, outpatient counseling and self-help groups aren't enough. Some teens require residential treatment for their substance abuse problems.

There are many rehab centers and hospitals who specialize in treatment teenage drug and alcohol problems.

I interviewed Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a clinical consultant to the Caron Treatment Centers, to learn more about residential treatment. Caron offers residential substance abuse treatment centers in Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas for both adults and teens.

Here are my questions and his answers:

What are the most common drugs of choice you’re seeing in teens who enter into treatment?

Prescription drugs are most common but we’re also seeing a lot of marijuana and alcohol.

Why do think prescription drugs are such a problem among teens?

Addiction is about access and availability. Teens are taking drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets or they’re buying them online.

Sometimes they’ve been given medication in childhood to treat a behavior problem but have never been given the skills necessary to deal with that problem. They grow up in a culture where drugs are the norm. They also think that if drugs came from a doctor, they must be safe.

When should a teen be placed in residential treatment for a substance abuse problem as opposed to attending outpatient counseling?

We look at residential as a last resort for people who are a serious danger to themselves or someone else. A teen who is in danger of overdosing should have residential treatment.

Sometimes they need to be taken out of their environment.

How long does residential treatment usually last?

Ideally, it lasts 90 days but we re-evaluate every 30 days.

What can parents do if teens don’t want help?

Parents can make the decision for them if they’re under 18. It gets trickier if they’re over 18. Parents need to have leverage to get them proper care. Leverage could mean restricting privileges, like limiting the phone or computer, and implementing consequences. It’s about setting limits and keeping boundaries.

What can parents do to prevent a teen from developing a substance abuse problem?

Keep their medicines locked up and restrict a teen’s access to drugs and alcohol. Pay attention to behavior and look for changes. Also, pay attention to who they’re hanging around with. Don’t be in denial about drugs or think it can’t happen to your kids. Everyone’s kids are susceptible.

The news is often filled with stories about teen celebrities who are abusing drugs and alcohol. Clearly, many impressionable youth look up to them and unfortunately, their behavior may appear to glorify substance abuse. Why do you think we are seeing so many young celebrities with substance abuse problems?

Many young celebrities achieve financial success and don’t have the time or intellectual capacity to handle their new sense of identity.

They don’t have the time to incorporate being a celebrity or having wealth into their sense of identity so they engage in self-destructive behavior to manage their anxiety.

What else should parents know about drug and alcohol treatment for teens?

It’s a big problem in our communities. There’s really good help out there. Early intervention sets kids up for success.

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