When Your Child Needs Substance Abuse Treatment

It’s hard for most parents to believe that their child might be caught up in substance abuse and in need of professional help. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t see the warning signs until your child was in trouble or until someone told you about a drug problem in your family. When most parents find out about their child’s drug abuse, they feel shocked and stunned and wonder where they went wrong.

Many children and teens feel great pressure to try alcohol, tobacco, and drugs (ATD). They are flooded with pro-use messages from their friends; from alcohol and tobacco advertising and marketing; and from movies, music, music videos, and Web sites that appeal to youth. Parents often have less time to spend with their equally busy kids and fewer chances to keep track of their activities, friendships, and other influences. Parents feel like they are not ready to guide children on serious matters like alcohol and drug abuse.

Try not to blame yourself or your child if he has a substance abuse problem. The important thing is to act now to find the best available services to help your child stop using drugs and alcohol and begin building a drug-free future.

Your child’s school may suggest a good substance abuse treatment program. If not, the school district is likely to have a substance abuse prevention and counseling program. Contact them for help. Local substance abuse or antidrug coalitions also can refer you to treatment services. To find a coalition in your neighborhood, check out http://www.helpyourcommunity.org/. Your county’s health department probably has substance abuse services and is another good source for information. The county agency may be called “alcohol and drug programs” or “behavioral health” or may be within a “mental health services” division. A call to the county health agency’s general information number should point you in the right direction.

The Frequently Asked Questions page at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/faq.htm will bring you to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator. The site includes a quick search feature to help you find details about substance abuse treatment programs in your area.

Unfortunately, the demand for services to meet the treatment needs of teens and children is greater than the treatment options available. So, there are a few questions you should ask of any program before placing your child in their care:

  1. How does the program meet the needs of people under age 18?
  2. How does the program assess a teen’s problems?
  3. Does the program offer medication as part of the treatment plan, if needed?
  4. How does the program review/update its treatment plan in light of a client’s progress?
  5. How is the family part of the treatment experience and process?
  6. What does the program do to help children stay in treatment?
  7. What are the staff’s qualifications? Is the program run by State-accredited, licensed, or trained professionals? What clinical supervision is given?
  8. Is the facility clean, organized, and well-run?
  9. Does the program encompass the full range of needs of the child (medical, including infectious diseases; psychological, including co-occurring mental illness; social; vocational; legal; etc.)?
  10. Does the treatment program also address sexual orientation and physical disabilities as well as provide age, gender, and culturally appropriate treatment services?
  11. Does the program offer counseling (individual or group) and other behavioral therapies to enhance the child’s ability to function in the family/community? Are single-sex groups, as well as mixed groups, offered? Are there male and female counselors?
  12. What followup care is given after treatment is over? Does the program employ strategies to engage and keep the child in longer-term treatment, increasing the likelihood of success?
  13. What evidence is there to show that the program works?
  14. What are all of the costs involved in enrolling a child in the program? What types of insurance coverage are allowed? Are “scholarships” or sliding-scale fees given?

As with any illness or medical problem, early intervention and treatment of your child’s substance abuse raises the chances of successful results. The sooner your child gets help, the less harm her drug or alcohol problem may cause and the better her chances are of developing a healthy, safe, and drug-free lifestyle. With your encouragement and support and an effective treatment plan, what is now a painful family experience can become a positive step toward a happy and fulfilling future.

You Can Help Your Child Make Healthy Choices!

Talk With Your Child—It’s important to establish and maintain good communication with your child. Get into the habit of talking with your child every day.

Get Involved—It really can make a difference when you get involved in your child’s life. Young people are much less likely to have mental health and substance use problems when they have positive activities to do and when caring adults are involved in their lives.

Set Rules—Make clear, sensible rules for your child and enforce them with consistency and appropriate consequences.

Be a Role Model—Set a good example for your child. Think about what you say and how you act in front of him.

Teach Kids To Choose Friends Wisely—Support your child’s social development. Teach your child how to form positive relationships.

Monitor Your Child’s Activities—Do you know what your child listens to and reads and how she spends time with her friends?

Source: SAMHSA