In the US, rates of teen substance use and overdose have increased tremendously over the last decade. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have expressed concern over the growing prevalence of teenage substance use behaviors.
With the continued expanse and use of Fentanyl and other synthetic substances, teenagers are growing more susceptible to accidental overdoses. Many therapists are actively working with teenagers struggling with substance use and their families, who frequently share feelings of helplessness in trying to help their children.
When teenage substance use grows in severity to a degree in which medical detoxification is required, knowing where to start and how the process works is crucial for safety.
The Detox And Treatment Process
Medical detoxification, commonly called detox, is a medical procedure designed to remove toxins slowly and safely from the body. It is often completed in three stages: evaluation, stabilization, and fostering entry into further treatment.
Teenagers seeking detoxification services are usually required to undergo them in supervised medical settings, such as hospitals or medical facilities specifically designed to provide detox services, especially if there is a chance for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms to occur.
A licensed healthcare professional, such as a physician certified in addiction medicine or a psychiatrist, will closely monitor these services. Healthcare professionals, including licensed therapists and registered nurses, will also watch for any disruptions during the detox process. Most detox procedures require 5-7 days to ensure that the substance is no longer in their system and that they are stabilized.
The detox process can vary greatly based on the substance, how much was being used, the age of the patient, and other individual factors like health conditions. These factors can alter the treatment procedure approach, including the use of medications to assist with any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Due to the risk of serious life-threatening conditions, 24/7 medical monitoring is the safest strategy to mitigate the risk.
Common withdrawal symptoms seen in the detox process include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle cramps
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Profuse sweating
Beyond medical care, most detox programs also include individual and group therapy aimed at addressing any underlying causes, like trauma, or comorbid mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety. It can also help identify strategies that may be effective in treating both conditions at the same time. Most detox programs will encourage continued care after the detox process, as removing the substance from the body is only the first step in treating substance use disorders.
How Does Teen Detox Differ From Adult Treatment?
The overall process for detox does not change much to accommodate teenagers. However, changes in the dosage of medications may shift related to a teen’s age and weight. Another component that does differ between adults and teens is accessibility. While hospital emergency rooms will generally treat any patient with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, freestanding detox facilities are less likely to do so.
Most freestanding detox programs are designed to provide detoxification services to adults for a variety of reasons. Since minors cannot leave on their own and will be required to finish the detox procedure if the parent/guardian authorizes it, ensuring their safety throughout the whole process is essential. They are often treated separately from adults to ensure safety, requiring the facility to have separate living and treatment locations.
Teenagers also might need aged-targeted treatment, as there can be higher risks associated with adolescent use due to the higher chance of polydrug use and/or large amounts of substances ingested in short periods.
Does My Teen Need Detox?
A few common questions need to be answered to determine if detox services would benefit your teenager. Generally, the safest approach to deciding if someone needs to go into a detox program is for the individual to be assessed by a professional. Questions that are commonly involved in these assessments include:
- Current age – How old is the individual?
- Length of use – How long has the individual been using substances?
- Frequency of use – How often has the individual been using substances?
- Last use – When did they last use the substance(s)?
- Amount used – How much of a substance is used during each use?
- Types used – What type of a substance was used?
- Route of administration – How did the individual use the substance (orally, injection, smoking, etc.)?
- Other substances – Does the individual have other substances or prescription medications in their system?
- Medical conditions – What other medical or behavioral health conditions does the individual have that may negatively interact with other medications/substances?
These questions assist in determining a need for treatment. If detox is deemed appropriate, they can also give clinicians a baseline for the severity of substance abuse and expected withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol, Benzodiazepines, and Opioids are common substances that create significant withdrawal symptoms that benefit from medical assistance. If your teen has been actively using these substances and has several withdrawal symptoms occurring, there is a strong likelihood that detoxification may be an appropriate medical procedure for them.
Preparing For Detox
When the decision to admit your teen into a detox program is made, there are a few steps to ensure they are prepared for what the process will look like and help them feel as comfortable as possible during the procedure. While the emotions related to finding help for your teen can range from worry and fear to anger for their behaviors, it is important not to engage in critical language that makes the process of detox appear to be a punishment.
Detox is an uncomfortable experience due to the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that occur, and adding guilt or shame on top of the process can lead to unnecessary conflict. Everyone’s feelings are valid and play a significant role in how this experience will be perceived in the future.
Here are a few steps to consider when preparing your teen for detox:
- Explain the steps of the detox process and potential treatment timelines.
- Support them in their decision to get help, which is not easy for most.
- Check in with the detox facility to ask what is allowed and not allowed.
- Review the policy on family visitation for support.
- Finalize payment information and insurance benefits.
- If during the school year, notify the school of absence for medical reasons (there is generally no need to be specific on the type of treatment).
- Be mindful of privacy for your teen.
- Review potential treatment services for when detox is completed. Residential rehab or intensive outpatient programs are frequent next steps.
While these steps will not erase all the discomfort involved, they can help smooth out the process and allow you to focus on the most important thing: getting help for your child.
Paying For Teen Detox
Detoxification is a medical service covered by health insurance, especially when completed in a hospital setting. Most insurance programs have a specific benefit for substance use and addiction, with inpatient hospitalization having specific costs associated with it. It’s important to speak with your insurance provider to understand the costs and coverage of that insurance benefit. The detox facility may also have staff who work with insurance providers to help ensure coverage is received.
Freestanding detox programs may also offer reduced fee self-pay options when paid at the start of treatment. This can mean a larger up-front cost but larger savings than other payment strategies. Some programs offer payment plans and even financing depending on the level of care needed.
If your child is experiencing life-threatening symptoms or conditions, the local emergency room can assist with safe detoxification services as needed, regardless of the ability to pay upfront.
Find A Teen Detox Program Today
If you believe that your teen or loved one is struggling with substance use, it is important to have the appropriate information and help them find a safe, reputable detox program. Contact a treatment provider today if you’re ready to take that step for your teen.