As part of our initial diagnostic and evaluation processes, every adolescent entering treatment at Paradigm receives a thorough medical evaluation, in order to obtain baseline measures of their physical functioning and overall level of physical health. As a great deal of research supports, at Paradigm we firmly believe that physical health and emotional health are fundamentally linked, and as such, we aim to take the physical and emotional aspects of the teens’ health into careful consideration, in the creation and implementation of the treatment plan. In order to help educate teens and families about the nature of this relationship between physical and mental health, we offer informative sessions on the Teen Medical Aspects of Addiction and Recovery, as part of our Psycho-Educational Services program.
What we find is that too often, treatment focuses on a few specific symptoms a teen is experiencing, without considering the larger and more holistic perspective of what’s going on. This oversight due to broad diagnostic processes includes, but is certainly not limited to, emotional symptoms teens are experiencing that may be a result of, or related to, physical causes. Just one example of this relationship is the significant hormonal fluctuations that adolescents experience, which can have profound effects related to symptoms of anxiety and depression. When this is taken into consideration with the fact that many different forms of substance abuse cause fluctuation and imbalance in the neurotransmitters in teens’ brains, it’s clear how physical health is integral to overall health, and therefore, must be considered together.
With specific regard to addiction, it’s extremely important for teens to understand the gravity of the long-term, irreversible effects that substance abuse and addiction can have on their brains. Though many teens will claim to know and understand the negative ways that drugs and alcohol can affect their bodies and brains, in our experience we find that this just isn’t true. The information teens most likely have about these effects are commonly an amalgamation of rumor and story that they’ve gathered from peers and the media, along the way. But they are by no means a complete and/or accurate picture. Furthermore, it’s common for teens to view themselves as somewhat invincible or somehow above suffering physical health issues, because of their young age. In this sense, one of the primary reasons for these educational services is to make sure that teens have a firm grasp on how their behaviors are affecting their bodies and minds, and what health risks they’ve made themselves vulnerable to, as a result.
The second aspect of our Medical Aspects of Addiction and Recovery services is to help teens and families understand, from a more clinical and scientific standpoint, the different stages of addiction and recovery, including the neurological impact of addiction. Especially in cases when teens might experience symptoms and stages of withdrawal from the substance, and/or have significant challenges in the beginning phases of their sobriety, it can be both helpful and somewhat comforting to understand what’s happening, from a medical point-of-view. Furthermore, it helps teens and their families to understand the other side of the process, including things like why certain practices are introduced and/or implemented during the treatment process.
As a last remark, at Paradigm Malibu we understand that though this work and subject matter is something we are familiar with and knowledgeable about, as professionals in the field, to teens and families it is often a very difficult time, full of questions. This is something we strive to stay very aware of and sensitive to, as teens engage in their treatment process, and as families try to learn the best ways to support them. Our Educational Services are, perhaps most importantly of all, a time dedicated toward helping empower teens and families with knowledge about their experience, while also providing time to ask questions and gain insight on particular areas of the addiction and/or recovery processes.