Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment; What Works and What Doesn’t

Adolescent Addiction Treatment

The statistics are clear, drug treatment programs and 12 step programs are an abysmal failure for teens. The problem of teen drug and alcohol abuse is of great concern to parents, educators and law enforcement officials across the country.

Adolescence is a time in life when children test everyone and everything in an effort to gain information and experience. The behavior and thought patterns that are formed in adolescence oftentimes become rooted and carry over into adulthood shaping a person’s life. As adolescence is a time of exploration and experimentation, it is common for teens to model behaviors that they see others doing, such as drinking alcohol or using drugs. Research has shown that parental behaviors and attitudes with regard to drug and alcohol use are a strong predictor of adolescent behavior.1

The primary problem with traditional drug treatment programs is that they do not address the primary problem inherent in all adolescents and that is a fundamental lack of maturity. As young people mature they begin to more closely associate their choices, behaviors and actions with the natural consequences of those choices, behaviors and actions. As they experience consequences for behaviors that are unpleasant, most adolescents adjust their behaviors so as not to experience the unpleasant results again. Much in line with this change, young people also begin to see the benefits of delayed gratification over obtaining instant relief and or pleasure. This progression is essential to building self confidence and achieving goals. In the case of adolescents who develop substance abuse problems, this phase of maturation is slowed significantly or delayed indefinitely thereby setting up behavior patterns that are detrimental to long term success.

There is much misinformation about what makes an adolescent drug treatment program successful. All programs available today, with the exception of one, are based on coercing, manipulating and in essence, demanding that adolescents curb their problematic behaviors. These treatment programs and addiction treatment professionals who participate in this methodology based on control make the erroneous assumption that adolescents who experience substance abuse problems are not capable of thinking for themselves and making their own good decisions. This methodology is designed to direct the adolescents’ thoughts, actions and behaviors to what is desired by the treatment professionals regardless of the adolescents’ wants, feelings or desires. Some of these treatment organizations are militantly religious forcing teens to embrace Christianity as a means to stay sober and drug free, while other organizations are set up in the wilderness so as to teach extreme humility along with basic survival skills. All of the control model programs use fear as the primary catalyst for change within the adolescent. Fear of God’s wrath, fear of punishment and humiliation, and fear of death are but a few of the examples used by this flawed methodology.

The St. Jude Retreats uses none of these tactics, and in fact does not use fear as a motivator at all. Instead the Jude Thaddeus Program is based on more than 20 years of research on what actually works to help teenagers to overcome substance abuse problems at this most difficult stage in life.

Scientists agree that all adolescents learn best through modeling behaviors, positive social interaction and option presentation. At the St. Jude Retreats your adolescent is surrounded by kind, compassionate people who actually live what they teach. Our staff is not made up of former addicts or alcoholics who feel they must “give it away to keep it,” as is espoused in the 12 Step Programs and some Non 12 Step Programs; to the contrary our staff is comprised of caring individuals from varied professional backgrounds. Our instructors are professional teachers who have received extensive training as well as ongoing training to teach our program. And all of our staff must complete our program as part of their training. While the majority of our teachers have no history of substance abuse, and were already personally successful upon joining our organization, even they reported marked improvement in their lives as a result of completing the Jude Thaddeus Program and employing our solution to their lives.

Whether you are talking about adolescents or adults, for lasting lifestyle change to occur people must be motivated by positive forces; such as a desire for happiness, pleasure, confidence, contentment and success. Please remember the primary motivation for substance use and abuse is to feel good or feel relief even if it is just for a moment. Teaching a teenager that they have an incurable disease that controls their thoughts and behaviors, medicating teenagers using a variety of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, replacement therapy drugs or amphetamines, and having them sit in group therapy sessions or meetings with other teenagers talking about their difficult lives exacerbates the real problem– their feelings of fear, inadequacy and powerlessness. On the other hand, teaching teenagers about the immense power of free will, the truth about the myths of addiction and alcoholism, while finding out who it is that they want to become, and what life they want to live, then assisting them to achieve those goals; that is what truly works.