Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse is a term used to describe a pattern of excessive drug use. This pattern can be detrimental to self or society and causes significant problems or distress.

These issues may include missing work or school and creating dangerous situations. Such as operating machinery or a vehicle under the influence of drugs. Substance abuse may also lead to substance-related legal issues and can interfere with friendships and family relationships. Teenagers can experience substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety. Learn more about dual diagnosis treatment for teens.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Center in Massachusetts

What is Substance Abuse?

A medically recognized brain disorder, substance abuse is a condition that often includes physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence is an altered physiological state that can lead to withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Psychological dependence is a state of intense need to continue taking a drug. These urges and feelings of needing the drug may be present without physical withdrawal symptoms. Under these definitions, abused drugs may include illegal drugs. This includes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and legal ones, such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription medicines. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the U.S., with nearly three-fourths of all substance abuse disorders involving alcohol. Data shows that almost 20% of adolescents ages 12 and 13 reported consuming alcohol in the past month. While approximately 25% of 14 and 15-year-olds reported drinking in the past month.
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Signs of Substance Abuse

Determining if an adolescent is using legal or illegal drugs can be challenging. Adolescence is a time of change, and this includes behavior. Many of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in adolescence are behaviors considered normal for teens and young adults. Some signs of a substance abuse disorder may also indicate a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety.

One of the most significant indicators of a teen’s possible involvement with substance abuse is a preoccupation with drugs. An obsession with drugs can become a substantial part of their daily life and may cause a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.

Relationships with family and friends may become distant or argumentative, and their self-image may change in exaggerated and unrealistic ways. Continuous patterns of adolescent substance abuse often indicate problems in the teen’s environment that must be addressed immediately.

A few of the common signs of substance abuse include:

Commonly Abused Substances by Teens

While the most popular substances differ between age groups, legal drugs are relatively more accessible to adolescents. For this reason, alcohol and tobacco are the two most commonly abused drugs by teens and adolescents, followed by marijuana.

Young adolescents prefer inhalants, while older teens are more likely to use synthetic marijuana and prescription medications. Research shows that prescription and over-the-counter drugs account for most substance abuse among high-school seniors.

Studies have found that, other than alcohol and tobacco, the ten most commonly abused substances by teens and adolescents include:

  1. Marijuana
  2. Amphetamines
  3. Synthetic Marijuana
  4. Prescription painkillers
  5. Cough medicine
  6. Sedatives
  7. Tranquilizers
  8. Hallucinogens
  9. MDMA (ecstasy)
  10. Salvia
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Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

Most adolescents who try drugs do not become substance abusers or addicts as adults. However, drug use in adolescence can be very risky. Even the occasional abuse of substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants can have harmful consequences. The areas of life most affected by substance abuse typically include school and relationships, particularly family relationships.

Many factors influence substance abuse in adolescence. There is no single cause of a teen developing a substance abuse condition. Some of the elements that place many adolescents at an increased risk of substance abuse and dependence include:

  • Peer and family influence
  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Environmental stressors
  • Personality characteristics
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Poor communication and interaction between parents and children
  • Undefined or poorly communicated rules and expectations
  • Inconsistent and excessive harsh discipline
  • Family turmoil
  • Parental leniency towards alcohol and drug us

Cultural and societal factors also play an integral role in substance abuse. For example, public laws define what kind of drug use is legal or illegal. This determines which forms of drug or alcohol are acceptable or allowable.

Treatment for Teens Abusing Substances

Substance abuse treatment for teens varies in levels of care and treatment settings. Since no individual treatment is suitable for every adolescent, treatments are tailored to meet the individual’s needs.

Research shows that several substance abuse treatment approaches are practical for adolescents. These treatments address distinct aspects of adolescent drug use and its consequences. Evidence-based treatment approaches include behavioral and family-based interventions as well as medications.

After-School Outpatient

Outpatient treatment is the most common setting. This approach is often recommended for substance abuse treatment of teens with less severe addictions. Outpatient treatment can also be helpful for teens with few mental health problems and a supportive living environment. When well-trained professionals provide services, more severe cases can be treated in outpatient settings.

Outpatient treatment varies by type and intensity of therapy and may be provided individually or in a group format. Low and moderate-intensity outpatient care typically involves one or two sessions a week. Intensive outpatient services include three or more weekly sessions, each lasting at least three hours.

Day Treatment

Substance abuse treatment for teens with severe conditions often requires a more intensive level of care, called partial hospitalization. This treatment option is also referred to as day treatment. This setting enables patients to receive treatment five days a week for four to six hours while living in their homes.

Residential Treatment

Residential or inpatient treatment is resource intensive and the highest level of care. Inpatient treatment is sometimes recommended for adolescents with severe addictions who require 24-hour observation and care to make their recovery possible.

These adolescents may have complex mental health, medical problems, or family issues that affect their ability to avoid substance use. Treatment typically involves building personal and social responsibility while developing new coping skills.

Drug treatment experts have developed guidelines to determine the proper intensity and length of treatment for adolescents. Treatment needs vary by case and circumstance. Talking about concerns with a professional who can help create a treatment plan is essential.

This determination is based on an assessment of six areas:

  1. Level of intoxication and potential for withdrawal
  2. Other medical conditions
  3. Other emotional, behavioral, or cognitive disorders
  4. Readiness to change
  5. Risk of relapse or continued substance abuse
  6. Recovery environment

Like any medical condition, substance abuse treatment should continue for a sufficient time. In addition, treatment should be adequate to treat the condition. Treatment that is shorter or less intense than the recommended care increases the patient’s risk of relapse.

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Substance Abuse Treatment for Teens in Massachussets

Experimenting with substances is common in the teenage years, but substance abuse can be concerning for parents of teens. The most abused substances by teens are marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco due to them being easily accessible. Once the substance abuse begins to affect daily life, treatment may become necessary for the teen.

If your teenage loved one is struggling with substance abuse, contact Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness (MCAW) today to learn more about our programs and what we treat. Our main goal is to ensure that we use a holistic approach to treatment. Our entire team is dedicated to ensuring that the whole family feels supported during the teen’s time in our care.

Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.