If you live with substance use or addiction, you’ve probably thought, at some point, that you can quit using drugs on your own. Whether it’s addiction to marijuana, alcohol, amphetamines (Adderall counts), prescription painkillers (like Vicodin or OxyContin), hallucinogens, cocaine, heroin, or any other type of drug, you might think you can stop anytime.
However, we’re here to break the news to you:
This is easier said than done.
Quitting drug use on your own, without seeking professional treatment, is very, very difficult. Professionals do not recommend doing it alone, especially if you know you have an addiction problem. You might have already seen this in your life. Think about how many times you told yourself that you’re going to quit. If you’re like most teens with addiction issues, you’ve probably already been down that road a bunch of times. And if you’re still reading this, that means it probably didn’t work.
If you have an addiction problem, the best way to solve it is with professional teen substance abuse treatment.
For most teens with substance use problems, quitting without the help of professional treatment just doesn’t work. Even if you have loads of will and determination – even if you recognize the damage drugs cause and make a firm, internal decision like I’m never going to take drugs again – you might have found that you can’t stop using, despite your best intentions.
Which is why mental health and substance abuse professionals emphasize that addiction treatment is necessary for teens struggling with drug use.
Why Go to Drug Rehab for Teens?
Here are a few reasons mental health professionals think it’s unwise to try quitting on your own, and why the best approach to quitting is to seek help from a drug rehab center for teens:
Addiction is an illness.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is a complex illness. This disease model of addiction argues that chronic substance use changes the brain. These changes make it highly difficult, if not impossible, to stop using drugs simply out of sheer will. Just like major physical illnesses require professional treatment and sometimes even hospitalization, drug addiction does, too. Depending on the nature of the addiction, teens living with substance might need to be admitted to a detox facility, a teen rehab center, or dual diagnosis treatment center. In treatment, teens receive professional addiction help. Treatment may include talk therapy such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), recovery support, and possibly medication.
Withdrawal can be dangerous.
For certain types of drugs, quitting on your own is actually dangerous and can even be fatal. For teens who have developed a dependence on alcohol, tranquilizers/sedatives (like benzodiazepines), or even opioids (like heroin), withdrawal symptoms can be severe and painful. Quitting alcohol or tranquilizer use cold turkey can lead to withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal are uncomfortable. They include aches, muscle tremors, heavy sweating, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, depression, suicidal thoughts. Withdrawal can ever cause seizures or heart attacks, both of which can be fatal. Due to the medical risks of withdrawal, any tapering or detox process must be medically supervised by a doctor. For teens with opioid and alcohol addiction, specific FDA-approved drugs and Medication-Assisted-Treatment (MAT) programs help ease the withdrawal symptoms.
You might need dual mental health treatment.
Research shows that two-thirds of teens who struggle with addiction also have dual mental health or emotional issues. Teens who suffer from drug addiction usually also struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, psychosis, or behavioral issues. That’s why experts recommend that substance abuse treatment go hand in hand with treatment for any mental health or behavioral issues. Mental health treatment usually includes therapy like CBT or DBT (see above), and sometimes even medication. These types of teen treatment centers are called dual diagnosis treatment centers. Oftentimes, the source of a teen’s addiction or substance use is actually a mental health condition or emotional/behavioral issue. So, in treating the depression, anxiety, or trauma, dual diagnosis treatment centers treat the substance use issue at the same time.
Take the Advice of Professionals
These are the top three reasons mental health professionals and experts recommend you seek substance abuse treatment at a drug rehab center or dual diagnosis treatment facility: if you struggle with addiction, you need to understand that quitting on your own can be dangerous, and there may be more going on than just the addiction.
For more on this topic, read: How Teen Drug Rehab Programs Help Prevent Relapse