Can a Drug Treatment Center Use Maintenance Medications to Help Adolescent Recovery?

Can a drug treatment center use maintenance medications to help adolescent recovery? Yes, maintenance medications are available for teens, too. In fact, some drug rehabs specialize in the treatment of adolescent substance abuse disorders. If you’re a parent seeking a drug rehab for your troubled, drug-addicted son or daughter, you should be especially careful when choosing a recovery facility for him or her. The best place to start for this kind of information is the physician most familiar with your son or daughter’s medical history. Many doctors are well-connected in the area of medical specialties and can guide you in the right direction for your particular situation.

The Adolescent Brain

The full effects of substance abuse on the still-developing brains of children and teens are not fully understood. In fact, the prefrontal cortex area of the brain used by adults for rational thinking isn’t fully functional and utilized until about the age of 25. This is partly why you will often see silly and blatantly adolescent behavior in the early twenties age group, especially among males. The fact is, adult and adolescent brains work quite differently.

What is MAT?

MAT is the abbreviated term for medication assisted treatment. It’s commonly used for opioid and alcohol addiction. Although these two drug classes work differently and in different parts of the brain, some maintenance medications, such as naltrexone, are sometimes used for both. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. This means that it has effects opposite those of opioid agonists, such as oxycodone, morphine, methadone, codeine and fentanyl. Naltrexone is sometimes used as an antidote for opioid overdose. Given in daily doses or long-acting injections under brand names like Vivitrol, naltrexone works to prevent any effects should an opioid drug be ingested. That’s because it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. The drug also appears to suppress alcohol cravings and is sometimes used as part of alcohol recovery MAT. However, because alcohol doesn’t activate the brain’s opioid receptors, naltrexone will not prevent alcohol’s intoxicating effects. Interestingly, there is some emerging evidence that CBD, cannabidiol, may one day prove to be another effective form of MAT.

MAT is very often used as part of the treatment for OUD or Opioid Use Disorder. The two most common medications used for OUD are called Suboxone and methadone. Suboxone may be legally prescribed for and administered to adolescents as long as the prescribing physician is specially licensed to do so, but most states prohibit methadone use for anyone under the age of 18.

The Addicted Brain

When addictive drugs like opioids, alcohol, stimulants and benzodiazepines are taken regularly over a period of time, the brain becomes dependent on them and can no longer function normally without them. Physical and chemical changes occur. In a sense, the brain becomes rewired. Its normal processes are disrupted and deranged. When the drug is suddenly withdrawn, the brain is thrown into total disarray as it struggles to cope and right itself. This is mainly what produces withdrawal symptoms. These will vary according to the drug in question, but they may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea and dehydration
  • Stomach, muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Lung aspiration

Drug Withdrawal and Signs of Abuse

While opioid withdrawal isn’t typically dangerous, withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines without medical supervision is very dangerous and can even be fatal. If you suspect your teen of drug abuse, don’t hesitate to seek immediate help. Here are some possible signs:

  • Poor grades and truancy
  • Sleeping during the day or staying up all night
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and family activities
  • Missing money or valuables
  • Pinpoint or enlarged pupils
  • Marks or tracks on the skin
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants in hot weather
  • Wearing sunglasses indoors
  • Odor of alcohol on the breath or person
  • Slovenly appearance
  • Strange new friends

Maintenance medications aren’t always permanent. Sometimes, your teen may only need them for a while. All MAT protocols can be tapered and gradually eliminated with minimal discomfort. However, some teens may need MAT for a long time. If this is the case for your child, it’s part of their sobriety effort. Every child is different. MAT is also combined with various forms of therapy and behavior modification techniques. These can take time to work and may need to be adjusted over time. Your child may need still more time to respond to counseling and rehab. Be patient and understanding. Overcoming a drug addiction is tough, even for the strongest adult. It’s far harder for a child.

We Can Help

If you’re concerned about MAT and drug rehab for your child or loved one, we can provide professional, compassionate guidance for you. We’re a group of drug counselors available 24 hours a day at 833-497-3812. Let us help you find the best solution for a bright future for your son or daughter.