Finding the right detox center can be a tricky task when you’re trying to help a teenager get sober. Teenagers have different treatment needs than adults, but, like adults, early detection and treatment is important to positive long-term outcomes. It may not be uncommon for teenagers to want to experiment with alcohol or drugs, but those who begin using substances at a young age are more likely to develop a severe addiction and suffer from negative health consequences. Different treatment centers have different strengths and weaknesses, so you may need some help to find the right one for your teenager.
Does My Child Need It?
Detox facilities provide a safe, low-external-environment-stress, medically supervised setting in which to help teens come off of drugs or alcohol. It is usually the first step to recovery—and can be a difficult one. You should be aware of the symptoms of substance or alcohol use disorders so you can decide if you should pursue seeking detox treatment options for your teen.
Teens who need detox may exhibit some of the following symptoms:1
- Appearing more lethargic or energetic than usual
- Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
- Wearing long sleeves in warm weather to cover needle injection sites
- A drastic change in behavior, such as becoming withdrawn, depressed, angry, or hostile
- New group of friends
- Lack of attention to appearance
- Doing worse in school
- Cutting classes or not attending school
- Getting in trouble at school or in the community
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities
- Strained relationships with family and friends
- Altered sleeping or eating habits
- Continued use after experiencing negative consequences
- Going through withdrawal when use is stopped
What to Expect During the Process
Detox centers can help a teen become sober from drugs or alcohol.
The average cost of detox is between $600 and $1,000 per day, and the length is determined by the substance being used and the severity of the addiction.2 A routine intake interview helps the clinical staff determine what drugs the teen is abusing and the severity of the substance use, and will identify any possible underlying physical or mental health issues. A detoxification plan is then created and implemented to safely transition your teen off of drugs or alcohol. Depending on the substance used, medications may be administered to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. In some cases, medications may be used to reduce cravings and minimize the risk of relapse. Medication for any underlying physical or mental health issues will be started if necessary.
The typical stay in a detox program is about a week, with treatment success strongly linked to ongoing treatment, such as attending an inpatient or outpatient facility or regularly scheduled private therapy sessions after discharge. Therapy can help your teen understand how to prevent relapse by identifying situations that put him at high risk of relapse and to develop and practice skills to maintain sobriety. Detox center staff will help develop an aftercare plan for your teen and make arrangements for transfer into ongoing treatment programs, taking into account the unique needs your child presents with.
Extended treatment also allows those in recovery to dig deeper into the underlying issues supporting the addiction and helps ease the transition back into society without the use of alcohol or substances. Self-help groups are often helpful as well, providing structure and a strong peer support network.
The family of an addicted teen plays an important part in the rehabilitation process. A supportive family may provide additional motivation to get and stay sober, particularly when a teen learns more about how his substance use has affected his loved ones. This is extremely important. Getting the family to function as a major supporting unit is a key goal for the therapist, so family members are all educated about family systems and what role each person plays in creating and sustaining both healthy and unhealthy systems. They also receive the tools they need to make effective and long-term changes to the family system to help support their teen in recovery.
Part of family members being an effective support to their teen is being healthy and functional themselves. This means acknowledging and validating the normal range of emotions parents and siblings of an addicted person may feel, such as anger, sadness, grief, and confusion. Working through these feelings with their own therapist, as well as participating in family therapy benefits the entire family system. It’s also important that family members take care of their physical health by tending to their nutrition and fitness and getting enough sleep. Ensuring each member of the family has adequate social support also strengthens their ability to assist their addicted love one through the recovery process.
Alcohol Is the Most Treated SubstanceAlcohol is the most abused drug among people in recovery, as Recovery Brands revealed with a 2017 survey. The survey found that nearly 70% of people in recovery got help with a drinking problem, and a shocking 52.87% of respondents sought the most treatment for alcohol abuse. Despite the wide variety of abused substances individuals seek treatment for, alcohol seems to cause the most widespread harm. Fortunately, recovery can start with one simple call.
The Most Important Questions to Ask
Q. What addictions are treated?
A. Depending on the detox center, treatment can address substance use disorders involving opiates or opioids, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, GHB, MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, sedatives or tranquilizers, inhalants, synthetic cannabinoids (K2), and other drugs. The initial detox process for each of these substances varies, so treatment should be tailored based on the substance used. If a detox program purports to treat a specific disorder, ask to see what their methods are for detoxing off the specific substance to ensure it is a proven and safe method.
Q. Is the facility accredited?
A. Each state has an accreditation body to ensure that the treatment provided in facilities has been shown to be effective, staff is appropriately qualified, and the facility is overseen by the agency that provides accreditation. More information about accreditation can be found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. This is an essential component since many unaccredited detox centers exist that may actually cause harm to your child if they do not adhere to high ethical standards of care and supervision.
Q. What are the qualifications of the staff?
A. A detox facility that provides medical supervision should have a medical doctor on the premises or on call 24 hours a day. The facility’s other staff should include nurses, psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors or substance abuse counselors, all of whom are licensed or credentialed. A team of fully qualified staff members will have all undergone appropriate training to treat substance abuse and/or medical issues, allowing the facility to provide the best possible care for your teen.
Q. What types of insurance are accepted?
A. Most detox facilities accept insurance that covers the detox services provided.1 It is important to check with your insurance plan to see what services are covered. The facility can tell you which insurance plans it accepts. Facility staff can discuss the payment options they provide if your teen does not have insurance coverage and let you know if there are any low-cost options. Some detox centers offer treatment with a sliding scale fee or will accept payment in installments.
Q. What is the patient-to-staff ratio?
A. The patient-to-staff ratio measures how many staff are available to the patients. A lower patient-to-staff ratio means that there are more counselors available to work with the patients, which allows the facility to provide more individualized treatment. The allowable patient-to-staff ratio may vary by state. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can provide more information on the regulations for your specific state.
Q. Does the staff develop individualized treatment plans?
A. Treatment works best when it is tailored to your teen’s individual needs. When choosing a detox facility, be sure it provides individualized treatment rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. This ensures that your teen is receiving treatment that addresses all of his needs, not just the addiction. This may include medical, social, psychological, housing, educational, and legal issues.3
Q. Does the facility offer medication-assisted detox?
A. Withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can be dangerous in an unsupervised setting. Opioid withdrawal can be a painful process. Many detox facilities provide medication-assisted treatment to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, and this can help your teen stay in treatment and have the best possible outcome. If your teen has been diagnosed with a mental illness as well, it is important to ask if the facility can provide dual diagnosis treatment, which would include the prescription and management of any appropriate medications.
Q. Are self-help meetings offered at the facility?
A. Self-help groups are often an important aspect of the overall recovery process. Self-help groups provide structure and sober peer support within the community. They can increase motivation to practice healthy lifestyle changes.1 Some facilities host self-help meetings within the detox center, although these are not generally affiliated with the treatment facility. Participation in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), SMART Recovery, and Teen-Anon can extend the benefits of formal treatment. They seem to provide the best outcomes when paired with behavioral therapy. Self-help groups are also available for families of addicted teens, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
Q. Are the treatment methods backed by scientific evidence?
A. Specific treatment methods are studied to determine effectiveness. Techniques that have been shown to be effective by research studies are called evidence-based treatments. Choose a detox facility that provides evidence-based treatment over experimental treatments or those that have not been shown to be effective in treating substance abuse. This ensures the best possible outcome for your teen.
Q. Does the facility provide an aftercare plan?
A. Continued treatment is essential to maintaining sobriety for teens.3 While detox will start your teen on the path to recovery, it is important to follow up with formal treatment such as inpatient or outpatient treatment or private therapy. Addiction is characterized by relapse, and developing an aftercare plan is one way the detox facility can help your teen stay sober. Studies have shown that a minimum of three months of inpatient and outpatient treatment provides the best sobriety outcomes.3
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to do if your teen or young adult has a problem with drugs.
- American Addiction Centers. (2017).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of adolescent substance use disorder treatment: A research based guide.