The new school year is about a month old and some parents are increasingly worried about their teen. Maybe they suspected substance misuse over the summer but hoped the fresh start into the new academic year would set things straight. Or they have noticed certain behavioral changes and a sudden decline in school performance.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), last year almost 52 percent of high school seniors reported alcohol use, 19.5 percent of 10th graders and 30.7 percent of high school seniors used cannabis, and 20.5 percent of 10th graders and 27.3 percent of seniors used nicotine vaping products.
Research shows that there is a clear link between teenage substance use and how well they do in school. Teens who misuse drugs and alcohol have lower grades, a higher rate of absence from school and other activities, and an increased potential for dropping out of school.
Young people misuse substances for a variety of reasons including social motives, sensation-seeking, as well as stress, and trauma-related self-medication. Many teenagers engaging in substance misuse eventually require professional treatment or else risk developing a full-blown addiction and other serious health problems.
Eventually, parents may reach a point where they face a phone call they never wanted to make. Should we get our child into treatment? What kind of treatment is appropriate and how will it impact the school year?
There is a new treatment option for teenagers at risk in the Denver area. Avanti Behavioral Health offers an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for clients between the ages of 13 and 18 in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for teens.
Meghan Behring BA, CAS, is Avanti’s program director. She works a lot with clients, which is the part of her job she likes best. “I help out with coordinating intakes, doing assessments for clients when they come in, and giving them an idea of what our program looks like.”
It’s most important to be able just to listen, she says. “By the time a parent calls us, they are often in a state of confusion. They’re experiencing some really big pain in the household and whether it’s mental health or substance use, they’re just looking for some answers and some comfort and some ideas on what to do because they tried everything they know at that point. And it’s hard to love someone so much and not to know what they need to help them.”
Avanti doesn’t necessarily have all those answers but we’re ready to help the families just as much as the loved ones they’re bringing in for treatment. “Families are at a time right now where kids are going back to school and they may be asking, okay, maybe we’ll try it out, what can a support system like an outpatient program do?” says Behring.
The transition back to class can be a stressful time for children and parents alike. “Summer seemed easier but now there’s structure and there’s stress, and the teenager could be responding to that stress in unhealthy ways,” Behring says. That would include using psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cannabis, depressants, and stimulants.
An IOP is much more flexible than residential treatment and teens can get the help they need while still going to school. “One thing I’m really proud of is the fact that we made it a focus of our program to collaborate with schools,” says Behring. “We do our best to coordinate schedules to make it easier for everybody. Our own scheduling is designed to accommodate school curricula.”
At the same time, our parent support groups help families to better deal with the situation at hand. “They don’t understand what is happening but are eager to learn,” Behring explains. “Just realizing that other people are going through the same thing usually helps a lot. We really created a space where parents can freely discuss what they’re experiencing but we also provide education and tools to fight addiction. We’ve had a lot of really good feedback from parents and we really encourage families to be active participants in the treatment process. Addiction and other mental health issues impact the whole family and recovery should also involve the whole family.”
Avanti’s IOP provides comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for your teen. A thorough clinical assessment is a crucial step in the treatment process at Avanti. It is a free evaluation that aims to identify any misdiagnosed or undiagnosed conditions that may be affecting the well-being of your child.
We hope your child thrives in the new school year but if they need additional help, we encourage you to call us at (720) 753-4030 for more information about our IOP and family programming.