Addiction treatment for teens: Inpatient or outpatient?

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Addiction treatment for teens: Inpatient or outpatient?

Addiction treatment for teens: Inpatient or outpatient?

Before beginning a treatment program for adolescent addicts, it is important to select a level of care that will prevent a relapse. A relapse may result in lowered faith in treatment from parents and the justice system, which can present major barriers in a teen’s road to ultimate recovery. To prevent this occurrence, clinicians must first determine which treatment setting is most appropriate for the patient’s unique needs. Based on criteria including level of intoxication, presence of mental illness, readiness to change and risk of relapse, clinicians will select the treatment setting that offers the best chance of recovery. Treatment settings are generally divided into three broad categories:

Outpatient treatment

The most common and nonintensive adolescent addiction programs are outpatient, which allow teens to live at home. This level of care is reserved for those patients deemed least at risk of relapsing. Patients must also have a supportive living environment and no serious mental illnesses. Teens in outpatient care receive treatment appointments depending on their need. Low intensity treatment usually involves one or two appointments per week. Higher intensity programs for those more at risk may include two or more visits per week, each lasting as long as three hours.

Partial hospitalization

Partial hospitalization strikes a balance between inpatient and outpatient programs. This level may be selected for patients who need more focused treatment than outpatient programs can provide, but are not so at-risk that they require 24/7 observation. At this level of care, teens are allowed to live at home, but attend “day treatment” offsite as a majority of their daytime activity. Patients may attend day treatment five days a week, with each visit lasting four to six hours.

Inpatient treatment

The most intensive treatment setting available is inpatient or “residential” treatment, in which the patient is housed at a treatment facility. This level of care is reserved for patients with severe addiction or mental health illnesses, or for those whose living conditions may interfere with their ability to make a full recovery. Inpatient care provides around-the-clock supervision and a structured living environment to provide patients the best opportunities for recovery. Depending on the need, inpatient treatment involves short-term or long-term stays.

One of the most successful long-term models is the therapeutic community. These centers encourage both residents and staff members to become active participants in each patient’s recovery process. The method attempts to “resocialize” patients by bringing them together into a nurturing community. Treatment may include both medical and mental health services as well as family therapy. Teen patients may also receive education and vocational training to prepare them to re-enter society.

If you or someone you know may need addiction treatment, call the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline at any time to receive further information and advice on all of the available treatment models.


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