Young Adult Drug Treatment: Parents’ Guide

young adult drug treatment

Our society commonly views the high school and college years as a time to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Countless popular movies and TV shows depict students going to all-night parties or on rowdy trips where there’s no adult supervision and reckless behavior is the norm.

These cultural expectations may have taught your teen that drinking and drug use are a rite of passage, and that they can look forward to doing these things. However, losing a child to addiction is a genuine concern. Young adult drug treatment can help heal your family and get your child on a path to recovery.

What Is Addiction?

Despite what the science tells us, there is a lingering misconception that addiction is a personal failing. However, nobody chooses to become an addict. The disease of addiction changes brain chemistry by affecting the natural levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates feelings of pleasure and reward. The surges of satisfaction associated with drugs and alcohol make it increasingly difficult for people to resist the pull of substance misuse.

If your child has developed an addiction, it doesn’t mean you – or they – are a bad person. It only means they need qualified help to address the root cause of their addiction and equip them with the tools and skills to manage their illness for the rest of their life.

The Most Commonly Used Drugs Among Young Adults

Some drugs are far more prevalent than others on high school and college campuses. The easy availability of drugs, plus the peer pressure to experiment with them, creates a perilous combination. Many parents wonder what drugs their children are using. It’s less likely that your son has tried cocaine, heroin or ecstasy, and more probable that he has used alcohol, marijuana or prescription stimulants such as Adderall.

Although not everyone who drinks or uses drugs will become addicted, the more they use, the higher their tolerance will become, and they will require more and more of the substance to achieve the same feeling. Abusing drugs or alcohol at a younger age can increase your son’s odds of developing an addiction.

Substance Use and Mental Illness

For many people, addiction and disorders such as anxiety, trauma and depression go hand in hand. Your son may have started drinking or using drugs to mask the symptoms of mental illness. Self-medicating is a common problem among people who live with the burdens of these conditions. People who experience mental health challenges and substance abuse problems at the same time have what is known as a co-occurring disorder, also called a dual diagnosis.

The temporary relief your son feels when abusing substances can be difficult to resist, even when he probably knows on an intellectual level that drugs and alcohol can compound his mental health issues over time. If your son drinks or uses drugs as a crutch, entering a young adult drug treatment facility that will help him uncover the underlying causes of his addiction is essential to reclaiming his mental and physical well-being.

How to Tell If Your Child Has a Drinking or Drug Problem

People living with an addiction may start acting very differently from their usual personality. Is your young adult’s attitude typical teenage rebellion, or is there a more dangerous undercurrent involved? If you’ve noticed sudden, significant changes in his behavior, you’re right to be concerned about it. Here are some telltale signs of a young adult drinking or drug problem.

  • Self-isolation
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Skipping school or a decline in academic performance
  • Changes in their group of friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Trouble with the law
  • Lack of appetite
  • Reckless behavior, such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Parental instinct can go a long way in helping identify a budding addiction. However, a licensed therapist or your family doctor can make an official diagnosis and help you determine if you need to seek young adult drug treatment.

Common Objections to Drug Rehab

In an ideal world, addicts would be open about the need to enter a treatment program, but many people are afraid of the changes this would entail. Your son’s need to temporarily put his life on hold to go through rehab can be intimidating, but the payoffs involved are worth it many times over.

It’s likely your son is lying to himself about the extent of his problems and how they are affecting everyone around him. Deep down, he might realize he has spiraled out of control, but he may still believe the fiction that he can overcome addiction on his own, without getting help. Here are some excuses to avoid seeking treatment. If any of these justifications sound familiar to you, see the next section for ideas on how to overcome them.

  • “I can quit whenever I like.” One of the most common ways addicts try to stay out of rehab is to reassure themselves that their behavior is a lifestyle choice, rather than a severe health problem. However, prolonged drug and alcohol use rewires the brain in a way that makes it a nearly insurmountable challenge for an addict to walk away. Gently remind your son that if he could stop drinking or using alone, he would have done it already.
  • “Rehab is too expensive.” Young adult drug treatment is more affordable than you might think. Your health insurance may cover most or all the costs. If your son is employed and worried that taking a leave of absence from work will cause him to lose his job, the Family and Medical Leave Act may cover his bases. You should also consider that the mounting costs of maintaining an addiction over time can add up to be far greater than any expenses associated with undergoing rehab.
  • “Treatment won’t work for me.” Addiction often causes feelings of hopelessness. Your son might be unwilling to seek treatment because he is afraid of failure. A defeatist attitude like this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ultimately, your child must genuinely want to change for his treatment to be effective.
  • “There isn’t anything wrong with me.” Addicts who are unwilling to admit they have a problem may blame others for their self-destructive behavior. While this can be frustrating to deal with, remember that your child’s disease is clouding his judgment and preventing him from seeing things as they truly are.
  • “I’m not doing any harm.” If your son normally drinks or uses drugs at home, he may believe he is not hurting himself or others with his habits. However, addiction has profound financial and health-related ramifications. It also drives other people away as it increasingly takes hold of someone’s life. Someone with substance use disorder may prioritize their drug use and drinking above other things such as pursuing favorite hobbies or spending time with loved ones.
  • “Rehab is only for hardcore addicts.” TV shows and movies have perpetuated the idea that an addicted person must experience a dramatic, “rock-bottom” event such as an arrest or a car accident before they will accept the reality of their situation. The truth of the situation is that rehab can benefit anyone struggling with addiction, regardless of how severe they believe their problems have become. If you want to help a loved one struggling with substance misuse disorder, it’s essential to connect them with a therapist who can help them come to terms with the reality of their drug or drinking problem and how it is harming them.

Preparing to Talk to Your Child About Drug Use

It’s not easy to know where to begin the tricky conversation about substance misuse with your child. It can be a difficult topic to bring up at any age, especially during the turbulent teen years. However, as a parent, your influence can play a vital role in encouraging your son to get help for his problem before it gets worse.

Because people’s brains continue to develop until their mid-20s, young adults who drink or use drugs are at an elevated risk of cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating or retaining new information. They may also display impaired decision-making skills. It can be painful to see your son jeopardize his bright future, which is why early intervention is of the essence.

The way you broach the subject can make all the difference in whether your son is willing to receive what you’re saying and be open to getting help. There are strategies for bringing up the sensitive topic of drug use without the conversation devolving into an argument.

First, wait for a time when your son is sober, and you are in a distraction-free environment. Start by explaining you have been worried about his recent patterns of substance misuse, and ask him to listen to what you have to say. Don’t blame or shame him, and avoid shouting or appearing angry. Instead, use compassionate, concerned language. Mention specific examples involving his addictive behavior that have directly affected you and your family.

Since denial and rationalizing are characteristics of addiction, it may require more than one conversation like this before your son agrees to enter a young adult drug treatment center. Be patient, encouraging and supportive. Let him know you will be there for him as soon as he agrees to seek help.

The Family Role in Young Adult Drug Treatment

Addiction has wide-ranging consequences – not just on the person with substance use disorder, but on everyone close to them. As a parent, you have a part to play in your son’s recovery. You may wish to explore attending individual or family therapy, or participate in an addiction support group.

You can also help your son heal by doing your best to educate yourself about his substance of use and its side effects, as well as about any co-occurring mental health disorders he may have. Meet his treatment team to learn more about the different therapeutic approaches they offer and what makes them effective. This knowledge can be reassuring and help you understand the value of qualified treatment.

If your son lives with you, your family might also need to make some lifestyle changes before he returns home from rehab. For example, if you have any alcohol or prescription drugs in your home, make sure to either dispose of them or lock them safely away to remove relapse triggers from his path.

What to Look for in a Young Adult Drug Treatment Center

There are many different approaches to addressing substance use disorders. Success in recovery often hinges on finding the right place to go through rehab.

As you’re researching rehab options for your son, you may wish to make a list of questions such as the ones below.

  • What therapeutic modalities do they specialize in?
  • Do they provide any aftercare programming?
  • Will they accept health insurance? (If so, what does your policy cover?)
  • Can they offer any amenities that will ease the rehab experience?
  • Where is the facility located? Will your son need to travel to a different city or state to get the highest-quality treatment program that will meet his unique needs?
  • Do they follow a 12-step recovery model?

Young Adults Have Different Treatment Needs

Age-specific drug and alcohol rehab is often the best approach because of the cultural gap that exists between older and younger generations. Young adult drug treatment typically focuses not only on therapy, but also on helping hone essential life skills such as financial management, realistic goal-setting and personal accountability. The objective is to give them the confidence they need to live independently after seeking help for their substance abuse problems.

A single-gender environment can also be highly effective in treating addiction because it removes many distractions from the equation and helps clients focus on their need to heal. At Spearhead Lodge, we provide treatment for young men with substance abuse issues, and we recognize addiction as a disease. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your son turn his life around.