So when you do figure out that your child is not only experimenting but using and possibly has abuse or dependence and needs treatment, the question comes up, “So how do I find that treatment? And which of several different treatments is the best approach?”
Well, the answer, unfortunately, is not very simple. Only about 1 in 14 to 18 kids who have abuse or dependency get any treatment. And treatment is not widely available in a small community or moderate size community, there may be no providers or one or two providers. In a bigger city, there may be a dozen, but you don’t really know how to compare them, there’s no consumer reports that allows you to easily compare them yet.
What you can do though is you can use things like a treatment locator. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organizations, www.samhsa.gov
, shows you ability to use a zip code and address to find what treatment programs are close to you. You can call them, or you can go to their website, or you can ask them to send you materials to look at them and compare them.
When you compare them, some of the characteristics of better treatment programs are that they’re using a very formal assessment – usually a standardized assessment tool – that they’re checking not just for substance use, but for co-occurrent psychiatric issues, for other things like trauma exposure or problems that might put them at risk.
That they’ve got formal treatment plans. That they have psychiatric services on site, that you don’t have to go to another provider, that they can do things right on site.
That they work with families – that they have a family education component or a family night.
If it’s a residential program, they should have a community reentry program – because treatment is only as good as what happens when you go home. So they ought to have formal continuing care planning.
They should be involving teens and teaching them social skills.
When we look at the kinds of practices that have worked on average in the past, we call those evidence-based practices, they should be able to point to a name – the type of treatment that they do – and have manuals and formal training and certification that they’re doing it.
Just like if you were going to hospital, you don’t want somebody doing a heart surgery, you want them doing the specific procedure that’s been shown to work and that they’re qualified to deliver.
The same is true in substance abuse treatment. You want to use one of the evidence-based programs that works better than average. That tends to improve the likelihood of the outcomes three or four fold over using just whatever the person thinks of or not looking at all the different co-occurring problems.