One of the most difficult decisions a parent may ever have to make is the one to send a child to drug addiction rehabilitation. Underage people are more likely to resist treatment due to a lack of experience and foresight regarding how addiction will make transitioning into adulthood extremely difficult as well as how much drug abuse can impact their health. Teens also have a lower capacity for impulse control simply due to the fact that the advanced portions of their brains are not yet fully developed. It can therefore fall on parents to make the best decision for them.
The first step to getting an addicted child help is to make sure the problem is indeed addiction. Symptoms of drug abuse and symptoms of mental illness often overlap, and forcing a child into addiction treatment when there is no addiction can cause serious damage to the parent-child relationship. This is complicated by the fact that teens who abuse substances typically hide this behavior from parents as they are very unlikely to approve.
According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH, 2012), just over 6 percent (1.5 million) of young people aged 12 to 17 had a diagnosable drug or alcohol problem within the past 12 months, and only 7.3 percent (111,000) received treatment at a specialty facility. Somewhat more were diagnosed with abuse rather than dependence (addiction). Do all of these kids need treatment in a program?
On rehabs.com, a teen quoted “I saw a lot of kids who drank and smoked weed too many times and their parents overreacted and sent them to rehab where they were told they had a disease.” There’s no question that it’s difficult to know what’s normal teen experimentation and when it crosses the line for concern. That’s why it’s important to seek out a professional assessment to help determine the extent of the problem. And for that, you don’t need to go to a treatment facility, unless the problem is obviously really serious.
Your child may just need to speak to you about why they find themselves dealing with addiction. Family therapy is a great opportunity to provide an open safe space for everyone to voice their concerns. If you are worried about your child, listen to your instinct. But remember not to jump to conclusions.