Detox Local

Teen Addiction Withdrawal and Detox

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 08/10/2020

Addiction is a vicious disease no matter the circumstances, but this is especially painful when it is your child struggling. Luckily, there are a variety of resources to help identify, treat, and support a teen who is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. Here we will point out some things to look for if you think your child may be using, the signs and symptoms of withdrawal, and some tips to find a teen detox center. This is a scary time, but you’re not alone in this; help is available.

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It Takes A Village

When it comes to dealing with teenagers and young adults who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, there may not be a more fitting adage. Raising children isn’t easy. One minute they’re holding your hand learning to walk, and the next minute they’re asking for keys to the car. The frustrating beauty of being a parent is that there is no single way of doing things. As a parent, when we find ourselves in those situations in which our kids find themselves involved in drugs and alcohol, it’s common to wish for an “easy” button; we long for a simple solution to a complex problem.

Once you have accepted the problem, and are ready to take action to address the issues – no matter how vast – there are many people in this world who can help. Among the many are support groups, other parents, medical and psychiatric professionals, social workers, generous volunteers, therapists, and the caring staff at detox centers and treatment centers.

By The Numbers: A Look at Teen and Young Adult Addiction

While overall alcohol use among teens and young adults has been trending down, alcohol, due to its availability and prevalence in society, remains the most widely used drug among teens. Additionally, over 1,700 kids try drugs for the first time each day. That’s over 620,000 kids a year. We can take a look at the statistics to get a clearer picture of the changing trends in using habits:

  • Binge-drinking among teens is rising disproportionately to overall use.
  • Daily marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders is rising.
  • Illicit (illegal) drug use is increasing in 8th and 10th graders.
  • Vaping of highly concentrated marijuana products is increasing. In 2019, 20.8% of 12th graders say they vaped marijuana products.
  • Amphetamine (including Adderall) use is rising among 8th graders – over 2% of 8th graders have used amphetamines in the last month.
  • Adderall is the most commonly misused prescription drug among teens. 5.5% of 12th graders had abused adderall in the last year as of 2017.

It’s Not Too Late

Anyone can become addicted to drugs and alcohol, but everyone can also recover. The statistics for teen drug use give truth to the problem, but they don’t predict the future, and they don’t define the solution. You’re never alone, and it’s never too late to take action in addressing drug and alcohol use with your teenager; in fact, it has been shown that parental involvement is one of the major predictors for success in recovery. Being proactive in securing safe and effective drug detox is a huge step.

Common Signs of Drug Withdrawal in Teens

Withdrawal from drugs can be painful, uncomfortable, dangerous, and potentially deadly. Fatal withdrawal may be rare, but it would be irresponsible not to mention it. Despite the dangers and complications, drug detox can be managed safely with the right support.

It’s important to recognize the signs of withdrawal so that you can act quickly in securing help when needed. Here are some signs that a teenager or young adult is going through withdrawal:

Lack of Energy: Teenagers and young adults are typically brimming with youthful energy and enthusiasm. If you notice a lack of energy or a tempered enthusiasm in someone, it could be a sign they are going through withdrawal. Depression, fatigue, and lethargy are fairly common symptoms of withdrawal.
Insomnia or Changing Sleep Habits: Insomnia is a very frequent symptom of withdrawal. Insomnia may present itself in different ways, and somewhat ironically, can lead to daytime sleepiness. Younger people do require more sleep than adults, but if you notice drastic or sudden changes in sleep habits or patterns, this could be a sign of drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Missing School and Activities: Isolation and withdrawal from society are frequent signs of drug use and withdrawal, but the signs could worsen in withdrawal which can be painful, both mentally and physically. Some younger people use drugs and alcohol to help them socialize and have fun and can become dependent upon them to live their daily lives. If they no longer have access to drugs, they may pull away from people and things they normally enjoy.
Sudden, Drastic Mood Changes: Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can cause severe mental instability. Many describe being in a “fog” for sometime after they stop using substances. Mood changes to watch for would new or excessive anxiety, depression, mood swings (high highs, and low lows), anger, aggression, and irritability are frequently associated with drug withdrawal. Teenagers specifically are known for their erratic behavior, but its major mood changes or unexpected behavior that will be significant clues that withdrawal could be a factor.
Inexplicable Physical Illness: Withdrawal can be deadly if untreated. It’s important to take these symptoms seriously. Young people are known for their ability to bounce back, but withdrawal can be so painful, it can lead to more drug use. Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can look a lot like the flu; nausea, sweating, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea are all common symptoms. Opiates like heroin and oxycodone can cause the worst physical symptoms. If you notice a pattern of illness or illness combined with isolation and withdrawal from friends and family it could be a sign of drug withdrawal.
Suspicious or “Sneaky” Behavior: Suspicious or sneaky behavior can be a sign of drug use and withdrawal, however, these behaviors will likely worsen during withdrawal when someone is more desperately needing drugs or alcohol. Behavior that could fall under this category would be sneaking out at night, lying about where someone is going/where they’ve been, sudden changes in friends, or unexpected and unexplained interest in attaining money.
Obsessive Behavior: A sudden obsession in something – like video games, certain foods, the internet, money, body image – can be a sign that drug withdrawal is occurring. These sudden obsessions could be a sign that someone is trying to “fill the void” left behind as the drugs leave the system. Remember drugs and alcohol can have a dramatic and powerful effect on a young brain, and during withdrawal, they may try anything to get their mind away from the obsession to use drugs again.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

The issues listed above are reason enough to seek help, but understanding the layers of physical symptoms can help you gauge the severity of the problem. Withdrawal from different drugs poses different risks and knowing more about the specific risks can help figure out the best way to proceed.

Some specific signs of withdrawal from different drugs include:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. There is no set standard for alcohol dependence, and it is possible that a teenager or young adult could become not just addicted, but physically dependent upon alcohol. The most dangerous symptoms include seizures and delirium tremens, a condition marked by uncontrollable shaking and hallucinations. Mild to moderate symptoms would include nausea, sweating, and increased blood pressure.
  • Marijuana: Withdrawal from marijuana products can cause serious psychological symptoms. Paranoia, severe mood swings, and psychosis. These symptoms can vary in intensity based on any pre-existing mental illness and the potency of the marijuana product consumed.
  • Opiates: Drugs including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone fall under this classification. Withdrawal from opiates is incredibly painful and can be deadly if not treated. Ineffective detox is a major cause of relapse. Symptoms include severe flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, muscle, and joint pain.
  • Stimulants: Withdrawal from stimulants such as adderall will cause an array of serious psychological side effects including hallucinations and extreme paranoia. There is a growing number of teens and young adults – mostly female – who are using stimulants like adderall for appetite suppression and weight control, and although it’s not necessarily a clinically-recognized symptom of stimulant withdrawal, someone displaying an abnormally high degree of body/image consciousness could be suffering from stimulant withdrawal. Other symptoms would include exhaustion, fatigue, difficulty resting/sleeping, and appetite changes.
  • Benzodiazepines: Also known as benzos, these would include medications like xanax and klonopin, and like alcohol, once physical dependence on the drug has been established, withdrawal from them can be deadly if untreated. Physical symptoms of benzo withdrawal include shaking, insomnia, aches, and pains.

Finding the Right Detox Center For Teenagers

Finding the right care for your teenager may require some careful thought and consideration. There isn’t one single way to approach this critical step in recovery, but there are some key elements that can help you make the most informed and effective decision.

Teen-Specific Programs: Some detox treatment centers will offer programs specifically for teens and young adults. These programs may focus on community involvement, social skills, and personal or team accountability.
Educational Resources: Look for facilities that have the capability to offer accredited education services that can allow your teenager to receive school credit while participating in treatment. Some detox facilities will have affiliation with alternative high schools or homeschooling programs.
Credentials: Look for treatment and detox centers that have earned accreditation from organizations that oversee and advocate for high standards in the industry. Quality treatment centers will proudly display their accreditation/affiliation credentials on their website home page. Having accreditation doesn’t guarantee outcomes, but it can provide an indicator of the quality of care they provide. Common quality indicators would include:

  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO)

Reviews: Google and Yelp reviews can make a major difference in selecting a treatment facility. By considering the honest feedback of previous patients, you can get a clearer picture of what to expect. Look for treatment centers with both a high number of reviews and high ratings as this would indicate high performance over time.
Staff: Quality facilities will be staffed with specialized and licensed professionals in their field. Check the facility website for information on their staff. Do they have staff members that specialize in children/teens or young adults?
Programs: Detox only? Residential treatment? Intensive Outpatient? Aftercare? Some facilities may offer a wide range of programs, others may not. More isn’t always better, but understanding what options they provide can help you ensure your teenager gets the level of care they deserve.
Educational Courses: Every facility will have something unique to offer. Facilities may engage their patients with outdoor or recreational activities, music, team building, and more. Selecting a facility that closely matches the personality and interests of your teenager may make a significant impact on their recovery.
Therapy: Many teens will use drugs and alcohol to deal with past trauma or to self-medicate for mental illness. Quality facilities should offer a wide range of therapy options to help get to the root of the drug use. These forms of therapy would include individual and family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and holistic therapy. If medications are needed to treat underlying mental illness, the medical staff at a detox center can create and implement a medication therapy plan to address those issues.
Aftercare: Following detox and treatment, aftercare programs help bridge the gap between initial treatment and a life in recovery. Facilities that offer aftercare programs may be ideal for those who would benefit from more extensive and prolonged care.

Additional Resources

—School During and After Detox
During acute detox, school will be on hold. However, once the initial detox period has been completed there are a number of options. Studies have shown that enrolling teens in recovery high schools can be extremely beneficial in helping them stay sober. The Association of Recovery Schools has a list of certified recovery high schools from all across the country.

—Support Through Community Organizations
Detox centers will often introduce different forms of therapy and support. There are many organizations which have been organized to support teens who struggle with addiction and can serve as a lifeline for those who feel isolated by their struggles, or who find it hard to connect with others following detox. Here are some youth organizations supporting young people with mental illness.

Community forums and web boards are a great resource for offering ongoing support for teens during or after detox. SMART recovery, for example, has a teen and young adult forum that is moderated for safety and to encourage a healthy dialogue.

—Volunteer and Support Recovery In Your Community
Following detox, your teen may find new hope and spirit in supporting other teenagers or young adults who are affected by addiction. Giving back in this way can help your teen feel a part of something, give them purpose, and remind them of the benefits of living in recovery. Partners for Hope provides a platform for fundraising benefiting the Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

—Be a Part of the Solution
You can show your teenager you mean business by investing in them and your relationship. You can even begin taking these steps during detox, or immediately following detox. You can do this a number of ways including 12 Step Programs like Al-Anon or Alcoholics Anonymous that provide fellowship and support in the community for those who struggle with addiction or have someone in the family who struggles with addiction. Participation is free, and meetings can be found almost anywhere.

—Seek Personal or Family Therapy
By participating in therapy alone or as a family, you are sending a strong message to your teenager that you are committed to all aspects of their recovery. When a parent takes accountability to improve their behavior and relationships, children are more likely to emulate that behavior and accept accountability for themselves. You can search for adolescent-specific therapists or psychiatrists to find treatment that will work for your family. Also, a growing number of websites are offering online therapy options which may be appealing for a tech-savvy teen.

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