If you have a teenager whom you suspect is using drugs or battling a substance addiction, you probably feel overwhelmed and scared. Treating an addiction early gives your teen the best chance for recovery, and one effective way to do that is to have him or her attend a rehabilitation program. Many addicts, teens included, will insist that they don’t have a problem and that they don’t want to attend. Since forcing the issue is less likely to result in success, it’s important to try to get your teen to go to drug rehab willingly. Here are some tips on convincing them to go.
Does Your Teen Need Drug Rehab?
First, it’s important to know whether or not your teen needs to go to rehab. While drug and alcohol experimentation is dangerous and can lead to an addiction, a few episodes of experimentation is not a reason to send your teen to a drug rehab center in most cases. With that being said, all addicts started with trying their substance just once or twice, so if you know or think that your teen has experimented, you will need to watch for signs of abuse or addiction. They include:
- Using the drug more often.
- Dropping old friends in favor of new friends who use or supply drugs.
- Problems at school.
- Poor personal hygiene.
- Selling items, stealing money, or otherwise needing to come up with more money than usual without a clear reason.
- Secretive, violent, or other troubling behaviors.
Explain What Addiction Is
Your teen likely thinks that he or she can control the behavior and can stop whenever they want to. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. Addiction changes the brain and makes it nearly impossible for the person to simply stop using the substance. Not only that, but the body’s physical addiction will create withdrawal symptoms in some cases. Physical withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable and can be dangerous, so medical treatments are available to those in rehab.
Talking to your teen about the science behind an addiction can help them understand that they most likely cannot simply stop on their own. Depending on the substance being abused, they might need medical oversight as they go through withdrawal. They will also need counseling, group therapy, extensive support and, in some cases, medication to successfully recover from their drug addiction.
Visit the Drug Rehab Facility to Reduce Fears
Your teen is young and inexperienced with life; sometimes it’s hard to keep this in mind when they are battling something as serious as an addiction. It’s perfectly normal for them to not want to be separated from you and their friends for many weeks or even longer during rehab. Also, they likely have fears about what to expect and how their days will go while they are in treatment.
Visiting the treatment facility can ease their fears. They can meet some of the staff and learn about how they will spend their days. They can learn what the rules will be and what will be expected of them. All of this information will ease your teen’s mind and can give them a sense of hope, rather than dread.
Start With Mental Health Counseling
If your teen is very reluctant to go to drug rehab, starting with mental health counseling can be helpful. Many adolescents will not listen to their parents about important matters but will listen to a doctor or a therapist. This is an option if your teen is not in immediate danger and if the addiction has not gotten to the point where waiting a short period of time would turn into a dangerous situation.
Your teen’s pediatrician or your family physician can screen him or her for an addiction. Then the next step will be a referral to the appropriate mental health specialist. If your teen is refusing to go to an inpatient facility, they might agree to start with an outpatient treatment plan. Come up with an individualized plan that will work for your family and for your teenager.
Force the Issue as a Last Resort
If all else fails, keep in mind that if your teen is under the age of 18, you do have the right as his or her parent to force the issue and put them in rehab without their consent. This should be a last resort. First, it doesn’t teach your child how to make healthy decisions. Secondly, in order for a recovery program to be successful, the person with the addiction has to be willing to make changes. While you can force your teen into a program, you cannot force them to comply with the treatment. In a severe case where the adolescent is absolutely refusing to cooperate, forcing them into treatment will not necessarily work.
Be Ready to Lend Support Afterward
If your teen is in the midst of an addiction, it’s likely that he or she cannot see what the future can look like. Being ready to lend support after treatment is one key to avoiding relapses, catching relapses quickly if they occur (as they do in most cases at one time or another), and showing your teen that you’re on their side.
Work with the addiction specialist to make a plan for after drug rehab. It will include continued counseling and group therapy. Your teen will also need to make new friends (or at least find ways to avoid the ones who encouraged or enabled the drug use) and find new activities.
Getting into counseling yourself will give you some strategies for helping your teen during and after rehab. A support group will help you bond with parents who have been through this before as well as help parents who are just beginning the process with their own teenagers.
Convincing a teen that he or she needs help is never easy, but by talking it through and getting some outside influence from a doctor or a mental health professional, you might be able to get your teen to go to drug rehab willingly. This is the first step toward recovery, which can be a lifelong process, so do what you can to convince your teen to begin that journey toward a new, drug-free life.