Teenage Substance Use: Choosing a Treatment Program

Topic Overview

If your child has a problem with alcohol, drugs, or other substances and needs help, look for a program that includes:

  • Education: Find a program that has a way for your child to continue his or her education. If remedial work is needed, providing techniques that allow maximum achievement for your child will help boost his or her self-confidence.
  • Parental involvement: Most likely, family therapy will be part of a program, but you also need to provide support and encouragement for your child both during and after the program.
  • Promotion of interests: The program needs to provide leisure or recreational time when your child can pursue a hobby or interest. A leisure activity that can be continued after care will help your child have something healthy to do rather than use alcohol or drugs.
  • Special services: Special services such as mental health services, vocational help, and counselling need to be part of the program. If your child has other conditions, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorder, treatment for those conditions needs to be started while your child is getting care for his or her substance use.
  • Relapse prevention: Relapse (returning to alcohol or drug use) is common. Programs need to help your child develop a plan for dealing with drug cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.
  • Aftercare: Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after treatment. An aftercare program that keeps your child involved and around people who are staying drug-free (recovering) helps lower the chance that he or she will relapse. If your child commits to aftercare for 12 to 24 months, he or she will be less likely to relapse.
  • Groups: The program needs to have group and individual counselling along with support and self-help groups. These groups need to be separate from adult groups. Counselling may include cognitive-behavioural therapy to help your child learn coping skills to prevent future drug use.


Current as ofMay 7, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health

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