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Teen Rehab: Stigma vs. Need

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Drug rehab is considered so universally uncool that there’s even a top 10 hit song about it. 2006’s “Rehab” was written and performed by Amy Winehouse, a musician who struggled with illicit substances throughout her short life. And in 2011, Winehouse tragically lost her battle with addiction. She was just 27.

It was Winehouse’s former manager, Nick Shymansky, who initially suggested that his then-22-year-old client go to rehab. He believed that her excessive alcohol use was beginning to spiral out of control. Instead, Winehouse fired Shymansky and wrote a song about the event, which helped turn her into a household name virtually overnight.

Shymansky can’t say for certain that rehab could have prevented the singer’s untimely death, but believes that treatment may have helped Winehouse deal with the underlying conditions that contributed to her substance abuse; “There was something deeper going on: depression and a lack of control,” Shymansky told The Independent in 2015.

If you’re reading this, you may completely understand where Shymansky was coming from in trying to help a friend in need.

Fighting the Stigma of Rehab

The unfortunate reality of Winehouse’s hit song is that it helped contribute to the stigma of rehab, especially among teenagers. “Rehab” as a concept is commonly seen in a negative light. Those with substance use disorders may be seen as untrustworthy, selfish individuals who lack self-control. And those unfortunate misconceptions may help fuel the stigmatization of drug treatment.

For those with young, rebellious loved ones who are struggling with addiction, the stigma of rehab may seem an impossible challenge to overcome. But the benefits of rehab far outweigh the perceived downsides. Rehabilitation serves as a way to improve quality of life and is typically undertaken after a patient addresses their underlying symptoms of addiction.

It’s important to note that rehab isn’t exclusive to substance abuse and addiction. Rehabilitation may also benefit those with eating disorders and mental health conditions, including PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder. No matter the issues facing your troubled teen, rehabilitation is an important option to consider. What’s more, teens need to understand that the stigma against the rehab process is both problematic and dangerous.

Teens and Substance Use: By the Numbers

It’s difficult to estimate the prevalence of teen substance use, as many studies rely on self-reporting as a means of collecting data. Teens may be unwilling to honestly share the details of their substance use. What we do know is that, in 2014, 27 million Americans aged 12 and older had used an illicit drug in the previous month.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the rate of alcohol use was much higher in 2014, with nearly 140 million Americans reporting the current use of alcohol. Of those, more than 69 million engaged in binge drinking at least once in the previous month. Binge alcohol use is defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion, and it’s an unfortunately common practice among teenagers.

So why do teens use alcohol and/or illicit drugs in the first place? The answer is complex and highly individualized. Substance abuse looks different for every teen. Some turn to mind-altering substances as a way to cope with trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. For others, drugs and alcohol start out as a social tool that quickly spirals out of control. No matter how substance abuse began or how it’s currently manifesting, rehab may provide the opportunity your teen needs to overcome the debilitating condition.

But what about the cost? Even if you’re unsure whether you can pay for rehab or if your insurance policy covers it, schedule a consultation anyway. Your teen’s life may depend on it, and you may find that alternative payment arrangements are available.

Some states even offer special funding programs especially for low-income people who are seeking substance abuse treatment. Finally, rehabilitation for underlying medical conditions may be covered by your teen or young adult’s employer. Workers’ compensation insurance may cover medical treatments, vocational rehab, and possibly even financial benefits for lost wages.

Connections Between Mental Health and Addiction

Before you seek out addiction-based rehab for your teen, you may want to understand the scope of the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a number of risks of substance use that are more prominent among teens. For example, substance use can negatively affect brain development and contribute to risky behaviors, including unprotected sex and impaired driving.

Regular or semi-regular substance use can also result in anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Those mental health conditions can subsequently partner with substance use to create a vicious cycle of addiction and negative behaviors. Fad diets, which can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition, are a notable example of how low self-esteem and substance use can manifest in dangerous ways.

If you suspect that your teen has an eating disorder that’s co-occurring with substance abuse and/or a mental health disorder, don’t waste time seeking help. Rehabilitation is a viable solution for those dealing with eating disorders since it offers a community amongst those suffering from the same problems, including Amy Winehouse herself, who was reportedly struggling with bulimia while suffering from her drug addiction, which some sources claim was the true cause of her death. Rehab is a great way for teens to discover that they’re not alone.

What Happens in a Rehab Setting?

When it comes to rehab, every treatment facility is different. Your teen may end up in outpatient rehab, where he or she lives at home but participates in rehab sessions on a regular basis.

At your teen’s initial rehab intake appointment, an assessment will be performed. Encourage your teen to be as honest as possible with their clinician or caseworker in order to get appropriate treatment. During the assessment, risk factors will be evaluated, and the clinician will work to determine if your teen’s substance abuse co-exists with other conditions.

For instance, there is a direct link between childhood trauma and an increased risk for substance abuse. Therefore, your teen’s care worker will ask about any negative childhood experiences, including divorce, abuse, or trauma. And even though your teen is a minor, rehab clinicians typically allow their patients a voice in their care, for a better chance at a successful recovery.

How to Just Say “No” to Rehab Stigma

Even if teens are initially reluctant to give rehab a try, their health and safety may very well depend on it. Do your best to remain open and honest with your teen about the benefits of rehab, and always be encouraging rather than judgmental. Seeking help for substance abuse and mental health disorders is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter your age. The more we collectively work to banish the pervasive anti-rehab stigma that’s prevalent among your people, the healthier we’ll become on a societal level.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/plTEYtXwXok

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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