Treating the Underlying Issues of Teen Addiction


When teens continue to use drugs or drink alcohol there are many problems that can arise as a result. For instance, there might be truancy, expulsion from school, juvenile detention, failing grades, and a host of other major problems. Yet, these concerns, as well as the addiction itself, isn’t really the issue. The real underlying issue with teen addiction is the unresolved emotions and/or traumatic experiences that a teen might have had in their lives.


The real problems behind addiction are the underlying feelings, such as the shame, guilt, betrayal, anger, and anxiety that are too difficult to actually experience. These feelings might have been the result of childhood sexual or physical abuse, witnessing violence between your parents, bearing the burden of a stepmother or stepfather moving into the home, or experiencing a death in your family.


Drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana numbs a teen from those feelings. Yet, sadly, it also keeps them in a dysfunctional cycle of self-harm. A teen might try to keep those challenging feelings at bay with the substance use, but continue to feel them nevertheless. Using drugs and drinking only perpetuates the festering of those feelings, which in turn strengthens the need for drug use.


For this reason, if you are a parent or caregiver, it’s important to find the right treatment for teen addiction. It cannot simply include detoxification and spending some time at a teen rehab facility. Ideally, the treatment for teen addiction needs to include healing those underlying issues that a teen has been facing but trying to keep at bay. Eventually, teens need to get in touch with those feelings, as challenging as that might be, and begin to unravel the traumatic events that caused those feelings in the first place. The only thing that will lead to healing teen addiction is working through those challenging feelings in a safe environment with someone they trust.


For instance, you might have your teen work with a therapist who specializes in trauma and simultaneously work with a treatment team who can address recovery from addiction. In fact, ideally, recovery from teen addiction might include the following:

  • Sessions with a medical doctor who can address the physiological and medical needs of the body during recovery
  • Sessions with a therapist to address unresolved events of the past and their associated feelings
  • Sessions of family therapy to address the underlying issues present in the family system that could be contributing to the addiction.
  • Sessions with a substance abuse counselor to learn the dynamics of addiction and healthier ways to cope with challenging emotions.
  • Sessions in group therapy with other teens who are on the road to recovery, providing an environment of support from a peer group of the same age.


Other methods of treatment for teen addiction might also include yoga or meditation for helping a teen relax when faced with challenging emotions. Acupuncture can help a teen balance the body, and nutritional counseling can encourage a teen’s healthy relationship with the body and an overall sense of well-being.


Not everyone has the resources to provide all pay for all of these services. However, this an ideal list of treatment modalities to consider for teen addiction.