Is Group Therapy the Best Choice for Adolescent Drug Treatment?

Is Group Therapy the Best Choice for Adolescent Drug Treatment?

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The whole key to adolescent drug treatment is in finding a new network for the addict in question.  This is the big challenge and this is also why it is so incredibly difficult for young people to get clean and sober.

At the adolescent level, drug addiction is almost always a social problem.  Even if the child or teen is genuinely hooked on drugs or alcohol, the real problem has to do with their friends and with their lifestyle.  If they are using drugs in their every day environment, and you manage to get them clean and sober, what is going to prevent them from not going back to that same environment?  How can we overcome the problem of peer pressure?

There are different drug treatments for adolescent children out there, such as inpatient treatment, outpatient, group therapy, counseling, and so on.  All different models of treatment that attempt to get the kids off drugs and alcohol and keep them clean.  What is effective, and what has been proven to be useless in treating adolescents for addiction?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: University of Delaware Alumni Relations

Believe it or not, they have recently found that group therapy is actually detrimental to younger people in recovery, including those who are adolescent.  This includes 12 step programs such as AA and NA, assuming that they are mostly being exposed to other kids their own age in the groups.  The problem is that there is not enough of the solution being discussed when you get this many young people together, and instead they are glorifying drug use and matching up with new people and using drugs together.  So what they have found is that if you take younger people and get them together to try and help each other with addiction, it basically backfires and the kids end up relapsing with each other as a result.

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So what is the solution?  They have found what works better is family counseling. Get the kid and the entire family involved with counseling sessions and this is pretty much the best you can do as far as treatment goes.

Now if family counseling does not work and the adolescent continues to use drugs, I would recommend that you keep your eye on the future prospect of long term treatment.  I have experienced this first hand and watched a lot of people go through the struggle of getting clean and sober, and I can definitely say that the younger the person is, the more they need long term rehab.  Why?  Because the younger you are, the more peer influence there is when it comes to using drugs, and long term treatment basically replaces your peer group.  You meet a new set of friends who are all in recovery.  Most younger people are not willing to attend long term treatment, but if they do attend, it can have a huge positive impact on their life.

But again, this is not so effective at the adolescent level, and will work much better as a solution when they hit their late teens (if they still have a problem).

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