Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Making Decisions About Substance Abuse Treatment
Many children and adolescents use alcohol and other drugs.
Some develop serious problems and need treatment.
There are many types of substance abuse treatment. It may
be based in offices, special treatment centers, or
hospitals. The decision to entrust a child or adolescent to
any type of treatment deserves serious consideration.
When you are making a decision about substance treatment
for your child, talk about it with your child's physician
and possibly other specialists. If you are properly
informed, you can contribute more effectively to the
treatment process. Asking the following questions will
help you obtain important information.
- Why do you believe this treatment in this program is
indicated for my child? How do the other kinds of care
compare? Choices for treatment may include:
- treatment in a psychiatric hospital
- an inpatient specialized substance abuse treatment
- an educational program
- a residential substance abuse treatment program
- a day treatment program
- outpatient treatment
- a mutual-help program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or
- no treatment at this time.
- What are the credentials and experience of the members
of the treatment team? Will the team include a child
and adolescent psychiatrist or other professional with
specialized knowledge and skills in substance abuse
- What treatment approaches does this program use for:
- chemical dependency
- individual, family, and group therapy
- use of medications
- a twelve-step program
- mutual-help groups
- relapse prevention
- a continuing recovery process?
- Based on your evaluation, does my child have other
psychiatric problems in addition to the substance abuse
problem? If so, will these be addressed in the
- How will our family be involved in our child's substance
abuse treatment, including the decision for discharge
and the after-care?
- What will treatment cost? Are the costs covered by my
insurance or health plan?
- How will my child continue education while in treatment?
- If this treatment is provided in a hospital or
residential program, is it approved by the Joint
Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare
Organizations (JCAHO)? Is this substance abuse
treatment program a separate unit accredited for
youngsters of our child's age?
- How will the issue of confidentiality be handled during
and after treatment?
- How long will this phase of the treatment process
continue? Will we reach our insurance limit before
treatment in this phase is completed?
- When my child is discharged from this phase of
treatment, how will it be decided what types of ongoing
treatment will be necessary, how often, and for how
- As my child's problem improves, does this program
provide less intensive/step-down treatment services?
Severe substance abuse and chemical dependence in
adolescence may be a chronic relapsing disorder. Parents
should ask what treatment services are available for
continued or future treatment.
You should be careful not to be pressured into a treatment
decision. If questions or doubts persist about either
admission to a substance abuse treatment program or about a
denial of treatment, a second opinion may be helpful.