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Opioid abuse across the United States is being called an epidemic, and the effects are devastating. Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs encompassing prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone, Vicodin and morphine, and street drugs like heroin. Young people ages 18–25 have the highest prevalence rate of abuse of both legal illicit opioids.
The clinical team at Sandstone Care has extensive experience treating opioid abuse and dependence in adolescents and young adults, along with the co-occurring disorders that often accompany opioid abuse. Here are a few ways we approach treating opioid abuse and addiction:
Our teen and young adult opioid abuse and addiction programs begin with a thorough assessment. Understanding a person’s unique strengths and challenges, family history, past substance use, and underlying issues such as trauma or co-occurring mental health disorders like depression and anxiety provides the foundation for creating an individualized treatment plan.
We begin with a deep respect for learning about our clients and their families. All clients also receive a comprehensive psychiatric assessment upon admission into the Day Treatment and Intensive Outpatient programs.
Adolescents and young adults abuse opioids for a variety of reasons. Some have a deep family history of addiction, and some may be the first in their family to abuse substances. Often opioid abuse begins with an injury for which a young person is prescribed opioids, and a dependence forms in a person who did not have a previous history of substance abuse. Based on a variety of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors, the appropriate treatment plan will vary by client.
We work collaboratively with adolescents, young adults and their families to develop individualized treatment plans for their alcohol abuse or addiction. Treatment plans are continuously evolving to reflect progress, challenges, and new information.
Research shows that 70-80% of adolescents with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder. Some common co-occurring disorders of opioid use disorders include personality disorders, and mood disorders, as well as a history of trauma. While one disorder does not necessarily cause the other, it is important to treat both at the same time.
Young people may self-medicate with opioids in order to reduce anxiety, to numb themselves from trauma, or to escape reality. Receiving psychiatric care and therapy for co-occurring disorders, in addition to addressing opioid abuse greatly improves treatment outcomes for both opioid use disorders and mental health concerns. Sandstone Care clients all meet with a psychiatrist upon entering the program and receive ongoing medication management as needed. Our curriculum draws from a number of evidence-based practices, including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Building on the foundation of these therapies, we take a highly experiential approach to applying and integrating the concepts.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), is a common practice in treating opioid use disorders. This includes using medications such as methadone, Suboxone, and naltrexone to reduce cravings, lessen the painful effects of withdrawal, and prevent opioids that a person may take from having pleasurable effects or producing a “high.” Some of these medications, such as methadone and suboxone, contain opioids themselves, and are also dependence-forming.
At Sandstone Care, we take an individualized approach to treating opioid use disorders, which may or may not include MAT. We carefully weigh the pros and cons of using these substances based on a person’s history and risk factors. Our ultimate goal is to help adolescents and young adults experience freedom from dependence on any opioids, whether prescribed or illicit. We also focus on educating clients about the very real dangers of opioid abuse, including the risk of accidental overdose and harm reduction strategies such as using naloxone (NarCan) to save a life in case of overdose.
Adolescents’ brains are still developing until around ages 24–26. This is much later than researchers originally believed. As such, adolescents are especially vulnerable to the effects of opioids, which act on pleasure and reward pathways in a way that can profoundly affect brain chemistry and function even after use has stopped. Teens and young adults also need different things from a treatment environment than their older adult counterparts. At Sandstone Care, we understand that fostering an environment in which adolescents and young adults feel welcomed, accepted, and understood is critical to achieving a positive treatment outcome.
Our space is warm and welcoming, and our curriculum includes plenty of fun, movement, and experiential activities. Adolescents are heavily influenced by their peers, so we emphasize a positive peer culture, as well as learning to establish healthy boundaries with peers.
Sandstone Care’s clinical team is a group of licensed and highly experienced mental health clinicians and addiction professionals, including an in-house psychiatrist, medical director Dr. Mary Braud, who also are passionate about working with teens and young adults. This combination allows us to address adolescent and young adult opioid use from both a sophisticated clinical perspective as well as meeting young people where they are and helping them feel accepted and understood.
Struggling with school or work can be both a result of opioid abuse and a contributing factor towards it. Wherever the problem began, we find that by supporting adolescents and young adults in getting back on track in school and/or work, we support them in addressing their opioid abuse or addiction.
Having a sense of purpose and self-efficacy is a crucial antidote to the sense of helplessness that addiction can engender. When our clients are able to conceptualize themselves as successful employees, entrepreneurs, and students, it gives them a powerful tool in their battle with opioid abuse.
We believe it is crucial for family members to be involved in treatment. We support families in understanding opioid abuse and addiction, as well as recognizing how family dynamics can either contribute to recovery or keep a family stuck in a negative cycle.
Our non-judgmental approach invites families to explore their strengths and weaknesses and offers practical advice for supporting a loved one in recovery, whether it is helping a young adult launch or helping a teen to better integrate into family life. The first step of the journey is often the hardest—let us help you every step of the way.