Teen Drug Abuse Withdrawal and Detox

In 2016, 24% of secondary pupils (aged 11 to 15) in England admitted to having taken drugs. 44% had consumed alcohol, and 19% had smoked. For addiction to occur, there has to be a sustained pattern of use. Of the pupils who had smoked, 3% were smoking as regularly as on a weekly basis. 10% of pupils had consumed drugs in the last month and 10% had consumed alcohol in the last week.

Having to put your child in rehab is something that no parent ever wants to do, but given how prevalent teen drug abuse is today, parents ought to be vigilant and ready to help their child through substance abuse and addiction treatment, should the need arise. While dealing with drug abuse or addiction will most likely take a psychological and physical toll on you as a parent, treatment cannot be ignored, because it is the only way to repair the damage.

A guide to teenage drug use

In most cases, teens start using alcohol or drugs just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, this recreational use can escalate to a point where it is uncontrollable, and they become unable to refuse a dose or a shot of anything. Often, a teenager begins their drug use with so-called ‘gateway’ drugs, like cannabis or alcohol, before progressing to more potent substances like cocaine and heroin. Addiction at this time in one’s life must be taken seriously, because it can have even more profound effects than for adults.

Not only does addiction have serious consequences for your child’s mental well being, but their organs are also at risk of damage from dangerous toxins. You must also be aware that your child may be interacting with dangerous people, in order to obtain drugs. Some of the triggers of drug use include exam pressure, peer pressure, tastes in music, bad influences, experimentation and boredom.

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Why teen drug abuse is so prevalent

There are three major factors to which teen drug abuse can be attributed: environmental, individual and family factors. Risk factors that have to do with the environment may include the desire to experiment, peer pressure, having a low socioeconomic status, residing in an environment where drugs are easily accessible, the desire to improve academic performance or the need to cope with stress, anxiety or depression.

Factors that can be classified as individual risk factors can include a history for aggressiveness in early childhood, a history of sexual or physical abuse, mental illness, academic challenges, emotional issues, high levels of impulsiveness and being a Caucasian male. Family factors may include extremely strict or lax discipline, communication issues, divorce, having addicted relatives, family conflict and poor parental supervision.

Teen drug abuse is a key to the perceived “in” crowd

The decisions a teenager makes are often related to what is considered the ‘in’ thing, or what they think is cool, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Drugs are not an exception, unfortunately, as your child likely worries more about fitting in than whether you would approve of their behaviour. This is an even greater concern for kids who have low self-esteem or a low sense of self-worth, as their need for social acceptance can lead them to harm.

Sometimes, teens will go to their peers first if they experience difficulties dealing with issues such as social anxiety, and problems handling school work. Their peers may then suggest the use of substances as a way out. It doesn’t take long before they start replacing their old friends with others who are in the habit of using drugs.

Self-medicating tendencies start early

The teenage years can be the stage at which the onset of mental health conditions becomes noticeable, especially conditions such as anxiety and depression-related disorders. Your child may be clueless about they are feeling, as is often the case at this stage, but the real problem lies in discerning between ‘normal’ hormonal fluxes and what could potentially become real psychological issues, that can actually be addressed before they become full-blown problems.

The teen years can be a bumpy ride for some people, and it can be a challenge finding a healthy way to let out frustration. The pent up emotions that are already a problem on their own can even result in anxiety or depression and, to cope with the symptoms, your child may decide to turn to prescription drugs or illegal substances as a way to self-medicate. Once they start to do this at such an early stage, they may find it much more difficult to quit later.

Parental pressure is sometimes worse than peer pressure

Peer pressure can undoubtedly be a teenager’s worst problem, but parents may often share the blame. There can be no denying the fact that the job market is about survival of the fittest but, sometimes, parents put too much pressure on their children to do well throughout primary school, secondary school and even university.

It can be difficult for your adolescent to balance all of their expectations when they are trying to please you, so much so that they break under all the pressure. Whether it is about qualifying for a scholarship, making the sports team, or performing well enough to get the grades you desire, pressure can push your child to use drugs in order to give them an edge, or take the edge off.

Ending teen drug abuse calls for a professional intervention

If you discover that your child has a substance use disorder, the natural thing to do would be to try to get them to quit. But how can you actually achieve that? It may seem like a good idea to talk to them, but it doesn’t work that way, especially when drug use has reached the point of addiction. Like cancer or any other disease, proper treatment is required for addiction, if there is to be any hope for recovery.

The first stage of addiction treatment is detox, which is a process where the drug-related toxins are completely flushed out of the body. The best way to detox is in an inpatient facility where your child will have access to round-the-clock medical supervision. Therapy usually follows, because treatment cannot be effective if detox is done with no follow up. Therapy gets to the root causes of the substance use disorder, and fixes the problem from there.

Understanding drug abuse detox and withdrawal in teens

Withdrawal refers to a set of symptoms exhibited by the body as it tries to return to normal working condition. It occurs after the substance your adolescent has been using is suddenly removed, or the dosage has been drastically reduced. Withdrawal happens during detoxification, and for some time after the toxins have been completely drained from the body. The type of substance abused, the dose and frequency of abuse all contribute to the nature and severity of withdrawal.

Detox and withdrawal may be difficult, depending on the severity of the symptoms, but a proper treatment programme offering medical detox will help to minimise the discomfort and danger involved. Medications may also be administered to take care of the more problematic symptoms of withdrawal, if necessary. While detox is the first step towards recovery, treating withdrawal symptoms alone is not sufficient to ensure long-term sobriety.

Withdrawal symptoms of drug abuse in teenagers

The symptoms experienced during withdrawal in teens canvary widely, depending on factors such as the kind of drug that has been used, the amount regularly taken, the frequency of use and the nature of any co-occurring or pre-existing conditions. Withdrawal symptoms may be psychological or physical in nature. There are a wide range of symptoms that may manifest in varying degrees of severity, depending on the drug that has been taken.

Some of the symptoms that may be experienced include fever, diarrhoea, stomach pain, trembling, sweating, headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, jumpiness, depression, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. These are not all of the possible symptoms, but they tend to occur with withdrawal from a good number of substances. Also, there is a good chance your teenager won’t experience all of them at the same time.

How Is withdrawal diagnosed?

If your child is trying to quit an addictive substance, or has been unable to obtain their regular supply, they may go into withdrawal. Before treatment can commence, the doctor needs to make certain that the problem is actually withdrawal. In order to do this, the medical practitioner will have to speak to your child and ask questions to help them ascertain whether the problem is indeed withdrawal.

The physician may want to find out about your teen’s drinking or drug use history, and how recently they stopped drinking or using drugs. The doctor may also want to find out if your child has experienced withdrawal before, and the nature of the symptoms they are currently experiencing. An exam may follow, wherein the doctor tries to identify any medical condition which may be co-occurring with the addiction, or even playing a major role in the development of addiction.

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Preparing for withdrawal symptoms

Adequately preparing for withdrawal can help to reduce how severe the symptoms will be. Firstly, you should speak to a physician, or an addiction expert, who can enlighten you on what to expect during detox and withdrawal. Going into treatment knowing what to expect can be a huge stress reliever, for both you and your child. You can also get the physician to help you forecast potential setbacks, in order to ensure you and your teen can steam ahead, regardless of whatever setbacks you face.

Get your teen to make a list detailing the pros and cons of quitting drugs, to help keep them focused and motivated even when you cannot be there to spur them on. Diet is important because eating healthily can help minimise some symptoms, such as mood swings. Fruits and vegetables are particularly beneficial, as is drinking sufficient amounts of water. It also helps to keep busy by volunteering, socialising, reading, exercising or taking part in other hobbies that they enjoy.

How to deal with withdrawal symptoms

The best way to make withdrawal bearable, or even easy, is to sign up for a proper medical detox programme where your teen will have round-the-clock medical assistance for the duration of treatment. Medical care during this crucial time can be vital, considering that symptoms of withdrawal may linger for weeks. In a detox centre, you can be assured that the process will be safe and effective, since your teen will be provided with the required assistance and tools.

In a treatment facility, they will have access to medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, round-the-clock medical supervision, a personalised treatment plan, and an encouraging, supportive community. In addition to administering medications, treatment may also include intensive therapy, which is useful for managing severe co-occurring disorders or withdrawal symptoms. Throughout treatment, vitals, body fluid levels, and electrolyte levels will be checked regularly.

Home remedies for withdrawal symptoms

Experts don’t typically recommend detoxing at home without the safety of having medical assistance when you need it. You may not have the skills and knowledge to manage severe withdrawal symptoms, or potentially fatal complications. Depending on the situation, even mild symptoms can turn out to be problematic. However, detoxing at home can be done safely if you have seen a physician who has placed your teen on a tapering schedule, which theycan follow at home.

To help make withdrawal easier for your teen, encourage them to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables for the nutrients, since addiction and withdrawal can lead to a few nutritional deficiencies. Other good practices include taking multivitamins or supplements, keeping hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, entertainment to provide a distraction from withdrawal discomfort and taking hot baths for relaxation and to help improve sleep.

Drug abuse withdrawal timelines

There is no withdrawal timeline that is set in stone, because detox and withdrawal are different for everyone. There are a number of factors that can affect the withdrawal timeline, including your teen’s physical health, the nature of any underlying mental health problems, the amount of the drug that has been used, how long the addiction has lasted and the type of substance used. Another crucial factor is genetics, even though its exact role has yet to be pinpointed.

Generally, detox and withdrawal progresses in three phases. With the first phase comes the onset of symptoms, which then increase as the second phase begins. It is in this phase that symptoms peak, before they start to subside in the third phase, when it becomes especially important to control cravings.

Differentiating between drug overdose and withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms refer to psychological and physical responses to the halting of a substance which the body has come to depend upon. These symptoms begin sometime after the last dose of a drug, and can continue for days or weeks afterward. They can range in severity from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful, depending on how long your adolescent has abused the substance and the amount taken, among other factors.

Withdrawal symptoms can be so uncomfortable as to contribute to one’s desire and cravings to continue taking the substance. If this happens, an overdose might occur, since your tolerance levels are lowered during withdrawal. An overdose occurs when you have taken so much of a substance that it becomes toxic to your system. Withdrawal occurs after one has stopped taking a substance.

Entering your teen into drug detox: What you need to know

Detox is the first step to getting your child the help they need, but it must be done right. It won’t work if you try to trap your teen into a detox programme without any prior warning. For treatment to work, the addict needs to be willing and ready for treatment. Doing it forcefully, or deceptively, will only cause your teen to consider themselves a victim. Also, chances are, they may not be able to trust you again when it is all over.

A better approach is to have a conversation about detox and its implications, especially if your teen will have to miss school. You need to be aware that while detox may seem like a hassle, there are bound to be even greater hurdles to jump after detox. There is likely to be a lot of catching up to do in school, and your teen’s friends may be an obstacle to continued sobriety. Even before going into rehab, it is important to be clear on what happens afterwards.

What is detox?

Detox, or detoxification, is the first phase of a comprehensive drug rehabilitation programme. It serves as the foundation for successful recovery, and it can prevent the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous consequences that can result from suddenly quitting an addictive substance. A detox programme is aimed at providing physiological healing after suffering addiction on a long term basis. The goal of beating addiction is achieved through stabilisation, followed by detoxification.

During the initial period of detox, your teen may experience a range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as insomnia, runny nose, aching muscles, agitation, anxiety and sweating. While these symptoms are not dangerous, they can be uncomfortable. Throughout detox, the focus will be in ensuring that withdrawal is as safe and comfortable as possible.

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Purpose of a medically supervised detox

Medically supervised detox is done under the constant care of mental and medical healthcare professionals. Getting this level of medical attention helps to reduce the likelihood of experiencing medical complications, ensuring that detox and withdrawal is as safe as can be. Your teen alsosuffers less discomfort, and fewer cravings, than would have occurred without medical assistance. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms may even be entirely eliminated.

There are different approaches that may be taken during medically supervised detox. The most widely used is perhaps tapering, which involves taking progressively smaller doses of the addictive substance until the patient is completely weaned off the drug. This method allows the body to adjust to gradually smaller amounts of the drug, thereby greatly reducing, or even eliminating, withdrawal symptoms. That means the danger and discomfort associated with withdrawal is reduced as well.

Rehab services for detox

Detox comes with withdrawal, which can be uncomfortable, or even painful, but with the help of a professional detox programme, the difficulties of withdrawal can be reduced. There are various settings where detox services can take place, such as in a detox clinic or a rehab facility. In some settings, you may have access to both inpatient and outpatient treatment, or only one of those options. For instance, detox treatment through a doctor’s office will most likely be outpatient.

Outpatient detox via a physician’s office may be ideal if your teen’s addiction is a milder case. Treatment will usually involve visiting the doctor’s office on a regular basis to take tapered doses until there’s no need to keep using the drug at all. Inpatient detox, on the other hand, may take place in a rehabilitation facility, hospital or other detox facility where medical practitioners can monitor the patient round-the-clock. It is the ideal option for more serious cases of addiction.

How to choose a programme

It is not always an easy or quick decision to choose the right detox programme, as there are several to choose from, and many factors to consider. There are a number of questions you will have to ask in order to ensure that the programme you choose is the right one for your teen. Your first concern may be whether or not a rehab facility is one designed specifically for teenagers. These centres are better equipped to handle the nuances of dealing with addicted adolescents.

Other important questions include how long treatment will last, the distance of the facility from home, the available amenities, how often you will be allowed to visit your ward and whether the facility accepts insurance. It’s also a good idea to tour the facility, talk directly with the professionals who will be providing treatment and make sure you are completely comfortable with the treatment centre before committing to the programme.

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Rehab costs and payment

The cost of rehab ranges widely from free to a few thousand pounds per week. What you end up paying depends on the nature of the facility where your teen will be receiving treatment. There are a number of factors that add up to the overall cost, including the cost of food and accommodation.

Generally, you can expect to pay something in the range of £1,000 to £5,000 per week for a residential treatment facility, while outpatient treatment will cost less. Many rehab facilities accept private medical insurance, but if you don’t have insurance cover, or your insurance does not provide full cover, you can make payment with a credit card. There are other options if neither of these are feasible, including bank loans, personal savings and donations from family and friends.


What is withdrawal?

Withdrawal refers to the physiological and psychological symptoms experienced when one suddenly stops or drastically reduces the dosage level of a substance the body and/or mind has come to depend upon. It will most likely occur after using a substance for a prolonged period of time, because dependence and addiction usually need time to develop. However, some prescription drugs can cause dependency within only a few weeks of use, causing withdrawal when you try to stop taking them.

The symptoms and length of withdrawal aren’t always the same for everyone, because patterns of use differ as much as the nature of the drug itself. The severity of withdrawal also differs from person to person, due to factors such as how long they have been using the drug, the dosage they have been taking, whether they have been combining with other substances and the individual’s unique system.

What is detox?

Detox, or detoxification, is the process of flushing the drug’s toxins from the body. It is the timeframe within which the body metabolises, or processes, any substances in the system, ridding itself of their toxic influence. Medical detox, or medically assisted detox, refers to the involvement of medical practitioners in the detox process, in order to make sure it is as safe and comfortable as possible. This is necessary because the withdrawal symptoms that come with detox can cause problems.

In addition to ensuring the safety and comfort of your teen, medical personnel may also intervene by encouraging ongoing treatment for their substance use disorder, and managing any acute symptoms of withdrawal. Social detox, or clinically managed detox, is another type of detox. It uses a non-medical strategy which may involve providing a room to detox in, or providing professional support and peer encouragement for the duration of detox.

Can I detox at home?

Yes, it is possible to detox at home, but it is not advised. Depending on the substance you are dealing with, and how long or how often it has been used, your teen may suffer complications. The intense cravings that often come with withdrawal may turn out to be too much for them to handle, and you may be unable to stop them from sneaking in drugs to provide relief. The problem with relapsing during withdrawal is the danger of overdosing as tolerance levels are lower at this time.

The only way to be sure that it is safe to detox at home is to check with a physician or addiction specialist first. A medical practitioner should be able to determine whether it is safe to detox at home or not, depending on the drug in question and the severity of the substance use disorder. If it is not safe to detox at home, it is best to commit to detoxing in a rehab facility or detox centre, where you can be certain your teen will get the medical assistance they need.

What are the options for detox?

There are two basic types of detox you could try: clinically managed detox, and medically assisted detox. Clinically managed detox, also called social detox, is a short-term detox strategy that does not involve medical intervention. Depending on the setting, your teen may be provided with a room to detox in, or may be provided a more hands-on approach with professional support and peer encouragement throughout the duration of the detox.

Medically supervised detox, or medically assisted detox, refers to a treatment that is done under the care of mental and medical health professionals. They provide round-the-clock monitoring and supervision as your ward detoxes from drugs. The observation is useful for increasing the level of comfort and safety, especially if the patient has to deal with possible medical complications and painful symptoms. The best option will depend on the unique circumstances of the case.

Will there be medication used during detox?

Yes, there is a good chance your teen will be given medication during detox. The reason why detox centres administer medication is to improve stability and comfort, in a bid to ease the process of detox. With greater levels of comfort, longer recovery periods and improved outcomes can be expected. Medication may not be necessary in certain cases where symptoms are not too severe, but they are often administered in cases of withdrawal from sedatives, alcohol and opioids.

Some of the drugs that may be administered include clonidine, methadone and benzodiazepines. Clonidine is helpful for relieving unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal without causing intoxication or producing a high. Methadone or buprenorphine can be used to provide relief from symptoms of opioid withdrawal, even though they produce slight opiate effects themselves. Benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax and Valium can be used to prevent seizures which may occur during acute withdrawal.

How long will detox take?

Detox is different for everyone. The bodily response, chemical makeup and addiction severity of one person is different from that of the next person, resulting in widely varying detox experiences. For example, your teen may have been abusing multiple substances, which can cause detox to drag on for a longer period of time, as withdrawal from both substances are dealt with simultaneously.

Generally, the first symptoms of withdrawal manifest withina couple of hours of stopping drug use, usually in the first 24 hours. The onset of withdrawal tends to come with uncomfortable symptoms that don’t get too intense until after a day or two. Between the second to fourth day of sobriety, the symptoms are likely to peak. Depending on what substances your teen has been using and how long they have been using, detox may be short or may drag on for weeks.

What are the dangers of detox?

Drug and alcohol continue to pose a significant health risk to millions of people and, unfortunately, thousands of youngsters manage to get themselves caught in the net. While it is easy for young people to start using illegal substances, it can be a real challenge to recover from the effects of addiction. Due to the dangerous effects of substance abuse and addiction, detox can become a challenge even when your teen is ready for treatment.

The medical team at the treatment facility may have to deal with damage to the brain and body as a result of the effects of drug use, especially at such a young age. This can affect the length of detox by prolonging it. That is why it is important to seek treatment as soon as you notice that your teen has a drug problem. Addiction only gets worse over time and, as that happens, the damage worsens along with it.

When one first starts abusing drugs, tolerance level begins to increase gradually and when that happens, greater amounts of the substance are needed to create the same intensity of ‘high’ as before. The more of the drug that is taken to make up for the increased tolerance, the further the tolerance level increases. This vicious cycle only fuels addiction, and can result in dangerous symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, seizures and convulsions, among others.


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