Treatment Approaches for Teens With Substance Abuse Issues


Adults differ from adolescents both emotionally and physiologically, since adolescents evolve from teenagers to adult and, therefore needs treatment that is tailored to their requirements (Szalavitz, 2007). The start of substance or drug use take place at youthful ages leading to more teenagers starting treatment for disorders arising from drug use than previously observed (Szalavitz, 2007). So to treat this category of persons efficiently, therapists should deal with addressing the root problems that are most likely to be the source of drug abuse such as emotional problems, social issues, moral development, physical challenges, peer pressure and family environment (Miller, Walters, and Bennett, 2001). This paper focuses on approaches best suited for teenagers’ substance use treatment.

Treatment approaches

Muiti-dimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

It is challenging to most teenagers in coping with peer influence and emotional changes; the process is even more difficult for adolescents with drug abuse issues. When teenagers with substance abuse problems seek treatment, previous studies shows that therapy that comprises the entire family might be the most excellent approach and it is known as MDFT (Miller et al, 2001). Many research studies indicate that the approach may be correlated to superior rates of enhancement across the family (Miller et al, 2001).

MDFT is an outpatient type of treatment for teenagers with drug use problems that involves the entire family who are also incorporated in therapy sessions (Miller et al, 2001). The approach surfaced two decades ago and it is the centre of attention for the most current research toward lessening substance abuse by teenagers; one distinctive aspect of MDFT is recognising that teenager substance misuse is influenced by various factors such as home-life environment, friends, and society and therefore this approach is required to resolve the issue from a wider context (Miller et al, 2001).

This approach is structured into phases making it unique, based on information of what is regarded as common teenager emotional and cognitive development. Providers of therapy do not advance to the following stage until the present stage has been achieved and must have information on the adolescent development (, 2002). There are three different phases of MDFT; foundation building, Working the Themes, and “Seal the Changes and Exit”; besides the MDFT phases, five forms of intervention can take place during the treatment such as face-to-face interactions with the teenager, parents interactions with the teen or actions that changes the way the parents and teens relate (Szalavitz, 2007).

Treatments may take place at school, home and other society places in sessions that consist of assisting the parents cope with opinions of being helpless to control their teenagers and empowering them to be proactive (, 2002).

A study carried out in San Francisco that involved 95 adolescents with substance abuse issues investigated the rate of success of MDFT and therapies involving some families on one occasion, or treatments involving a number of teenagers in a group situation (, 2011). The teenagers’ substance use behaviours were evaluated at the start of the therapy and after one year, as well as their efficacy in school and the manner in which the family functioned (, 2011). Families and teenagers who played part in MDFT indicated more developments in habits and family/school success than adolescents who used other therapy programs (, 2011).

Whilst various treatment approaches may possibly be used to reduce the effect of adolescent substance misuse, the Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse portrays MDFT as the best treatment method since it identifies the major risk factor linked with adolescent substance abuse (, 2011). This is because the treatment approach concurrently develops the processes and systems that may produce successful teenager development, both separately and in the family setting (, 2011).

Therapeutic Community (TC)

This treatment approach for substance addition and abuse has survived for approximately 40 years; generally, TC is substance-free residential surroundings that utilize a hierarchical structure with therapy phases that reveals increased stages of individual and social accountability (Kaminer, 2001). Peer pressure, interceded by various group processes, is utilized to assist the persons learn and absorb social norms plus grow more efficient social skills (Kaminer, 2001).

Adolescents are closely controlled by the TC environment; a research on teenager substance treatment results indicated that teens treated in TC approach were most likely than the outpatients in substance-free approaches to have previous substance misuse therapy knowledge, more serious issues, and criminal record history (Kaminer, 2001). In spite of being harder to treat, on the other hand, teens in these treatment approaches had considerably improved results in substance use, emotional change, criminal activities and school performance (Kaminer, 2001).

Behavioural Therapy

This treatment approach tries to assist teens exercise control by keeping away from circumstances linked with substance use, identifying and changing judgment, emotions or plans that results to substance use and joining friends/family to assist them keep away from substances (, 2006). Treatment activities might consist of specific assignments, rehearsing required habits as well as footage and re-examining progress; privileges and rewards are constantly given for completing assigned goals and indicating required habits as constructive reinforcement (, 2006).


Conquering substance misuse is merely an issue of determination that a person can discontinue from if he/she actually wants to and treatment can start at any stage during the process of addiction. The longer the duration of substance abuse persists, the stronger the drug-dependent turns out to be plus the difficult it is to be treated. Therapy from substance misuse is a lengthy procedure that frequently involves drawbacks; such setbacks do not imply that the approach was unsuccessful rather, it is a sign to persevere either by continuing with the therapy or changing the therapy approach altogether. Therefore, any of the above approaches can be applied and its success will depend on the teenager determination and the way that the therapy has been structured.

References (2011). Multi-dimensional Family Therapy Helpful forTeens with Drug Abuse Problems. Web. (2006). Treatment Approaches. Web.

Kaminer, Y. (2001) Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment: Where Do We Go From Here? Psychiatric Services, 52:147-149.

Miller, W. R., Walters, S. T. and Bennett, M. E. (2001). How effective is alcohol treatment in the United States? Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62: 211-220., (2002). Therapeutic community: What is a therapeutic community? Web.

Szalavitz, M. (2007). The trouble with troubled teen programs: How the “boot camp” industry tortures and kills kids. Web.

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