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With substance abuse treatment services being rare in children’s hospitals and the dwindling resources of state services, addicted teens have few places to go in our society to affordably obtain the help they desperately need. When we take a closer look at why there are so few places for addicted teens to go, we see systemic problems that are bigger than any one avenue of treatment.

teens and addictionAlthough there are many changes within the healthcare continuum that are positive, ever tighter profit margins and insurance reimbursement inadequacies are two changes that make it financially untenable for hospitals to provide addiction services. Primarily, this stems from the need for a team of professionals to deal with both the addiction and the underlying psychological problems. That process can include health insurance negotiators, nursing staff for admissions, a primary care doctor, child psychiatrists and psychologists, an addiction counselor, and many others. ​

The high variability of costs for treatment facilities and the variance on how much and how long insurance companies will approve treatment can make for a maze of mirrors and locked doors in an effort to find the clear path. Despite the passing of the Mental Health Parity Act in 2008, the law does not require Medicaid and insurance companies to set rates on par with the costs of treatment.

Many are unaware of any significant number of the more than 39 warning signs for teen addiction, which exacerbates the problem of early intervention. It can be difficult ​to identify whether teens are using drugs because they are struggling with managing psychological issues, or​ whether symptoms such as depression or anxiety emerge from substance withdrawal. Over time, they become intertwined.

One of the best hopes for parents of addicted teens is gaining an understanding of addiction and warning signs so that they can intervene earlier rather than later. Ongoing involvement in the lives of their teens and being aware of sending the wrong messages through their own behavior is often the best place to start.

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