If this is their first time going to treatment, there is a high chance inpatient drug rehab will not be the best answer to your teen’s substance use. 

Absolutely, substances are harmful to your teen and treatment will be helpful. However, just like over correcting to avoid an accident while you are driving can cause an even bigger wreck, sending your teen away to rehab can create more obstacles for your child to run into on their road to recovery. 

Parents I work with often ask for help to send their child to inpatient drug rehab because they believe it is the only option available. In the past this was the case and Hollywood and the media certainly still portray this today. The good news is the array of options available to you is likely more diverse than you might think and I’ll discuss these below. 

Another reason I see parents start looking into rehab is that they are fed up and quite frankly terrified. They don’t know what to do and desperately want some help from an expert to get their child healthy again. Many parents also believe drug rehab puts their family in the fast lane to solve the problem of drug use, but be wary of the quick fix. 

Slow Lane to Recovery 

I generally don’t suggest going to rehab initially for many reasons. First, many other important parts of your teen’s life will take a back seat while they are away at rehab. Fast lane recovery inadvertently puts the rest of their life in the slow lane. For example, your child is likely to have positive peers, teachers, coaches and role models who will become less accessible if they attend rehab. Inpatient programs will put your child in contact with teens whose substance use might be worse. Your child could find friend who will connect them more deeply with the drug culture. Teens often tell me that their substance use worsened because of being in inpatient rehab or group settings. 

Education is a second consideration to make. Even if your child is not doing well in school or may have dropped out, the longer they stay out of school, the harder it will be for them to go back. Other more accessible levels of drug treatment are available to help you balance your teen’s education and their recovery at the same time. 

The third reason to consider other directions is that an important key to recovery is learning how to manage cravings and urges to use substances. Drug rehab programs teach skills to avoid using, but your teen won’t be able to practice how to avoid drugs and alcohol while they are in rehab. Teens need to be given a chance to apply healthy refusal and coping skills in their “natural habitat” with support nearby to help them refine this skill with practice. 

My final concern is inpatient treatment is the most expensive level of care available. Your health insurance might not cover this level of care until another level of care has been attempted or failed. This leaves you to foot the bill if you do decide to pursue rehab. If drug rehab isn’t effective, then you are out many thousands of dollars and your child may have gotten worse, not better. Even if treatment was successful initially, many families use up savings and college funds to get their child sober only to find the risk of relapse is very high. 

A Better Route to Recovery

Instead of going from 0 to 60 at the first hint of a problem, the first step is to find a professional that provides an assessment to see which level of care would fit best for your child. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has developed guidelines your provider should use while they determine the right placement and service plan for you. This allows patients to learn about their options and be active participants in their recovery.

Search for a professional who is qualified to assess both mental health and substance use issues using the ASAM criteria. I provide this assessment for families at my practice. I listen to your story and while weighing your concerns and needs. Then, I work with you and your child to identify the level of care that is indicated for your situation. With this assessment, more often than not, I can help families avoid costly inpatient treatment. 

Often the best fit for teens is outpatient treatment. This level of treatment is provided in as few as 1-2 hours a week. It leaves your teen’s positive social supports, healthy activities and the structure of their normal daily routine largely intact. Many outpatient treatment programs allow kids to stay in school while getting treatment. Plans can be developed to help them get back on track academically. 

Treatment outcomes improve when kids and parents can learn together how to recover. Parents need to know what triggers their children to use drugs, what helps their children not use drugs. They need to know the most effective ways to communicate with their children. All of this can often be achieved in a convenient outpatient setting. 

Work with me to find the right fit whether it is inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment or somewhere in between. You just may be able to save that college fund and your relationship with your child, all while getting them the help they need. Contact me below to get your child and your family on the path to healing.

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