Teen Medication Assisted Treatment

Teen Substance Use

Substance use during adolescence is a critical issue that requires immediate and comprehensive intervention. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol during the teen years may seem like a common part of growing up, but it can cause significant changes in social behaviors, impact neurological functioning, and result in serious and long-lasting challenges. 

It is often hard to help an adolescent understand the danger of substance use. Adolescents may have a hard time forming cause and effect connections between the choices they make today and the long-term effects of those choices tomorrow. Peers play a large role in an adolescent’s conceptualization of the world, and teens face added stressors due to being in the midst of self-exploration and identity development, and are still growing physically and neurologically. Support and intervention for teens struggling with substance use must be meaningful, comprehensive, and timely to ensure a full and lasting recovery.

Teens and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that treatment providers consider medication assisted treatments (MATs) for adolescents with severe opioid use disorders. MATs are shown to reduce opioid use in the adolescent population, manage withdrawals, and reduce the risk of relapse. MAT (particularly methadone and buprenorphine) is typically indicated for patients 18 years old and older. It can be considered for patients aged 16 and 17, who have documented history of at least two prior unsuccessful withdrawal management attempts, and have parental consent. 

When taken appropriately and with proper screening and assessment, MAT can be an effective tool in treating adolescents with substance use disorders. Due to unique risk factors in this age group, it is critical that clients and families work closely with counselors and prescribers to develop a comprehensive, holistic treatment approach for teens struggling with substance use. 

Teen substance use is a serious issue, and caregivers must respond quickly to foster healing and help the teen achieve sustained recovery. Family therapy, development of a positive peer network, and coping skill development are especially critical when supporting an individual in this age group.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Options

For nearly 50 years, Root Center has provided MAT for substance use disorders. MAT uses medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach. The goal of MAT is sustained recovery and an ability to live a more self-directed life. 

MAT has been shown to:

  • Improve patient survival
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Decrease illicit opiate and other drug use
  • Decrease rates of infections (HIV, Hep. C, etc.) and other morbidity related to substance use
  • Decrease crime rate in communities
  • Increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant
  • Increase ability to maintain positive, productive, and sustained family relationships

These approved medications assist with urges, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms, and some act as a blocking mechanism for the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids.

In alignment with best practice standards, Root Center uses MAT in combination with comprehensive, evidence-based psychotherapeutic programming to help individuals progress in their recovery journey. Comprehensive care is especially critical for teens to ensure proper support through the psychological, physiological, and psychosocial aspects of their recovery. 

Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are the three primary FDA-approved medications that are used in the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). All three have been clinically proven to be safe and effective in treating OUD and are critical tools in helping individuals achieve a long-term recovery. The Root Center will work closely with you and your teen to assess the teen’s needs, explore his or her options, and come up with a plan that is safe, responsive, and effective. 

Taking medication for OUD is the same as taking medication for any other chronic disease. You should never allow embarrassment or stigma to stop you from getting help and support. 

MAT options for teens with OUD:


MAT options for Teens with Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • Antabuse
  • Campral
  • Naltrexone

What to Expect When Starting a MAT Program

Teens with substance use disorders enrolling in a MAT Program at Root Center will be paired with a primary counselor who will provide individual therapy and family therapy as needed. The counselor will work closely with the teen to identify strengths and goals, and to create an individualized recovery plan that addresses all aspects of the teen’s well-being. This plan will be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure the most comprehensive care possible. 

Root Center offers a variety of clinical and support groups that address different areas of recovery and wellness. Our responsive, holistic approach gives teens with substance use disorders the tools they need to heal and achieve a lasting and meaningful recovery.

Starting a Teen MAT Program:

  • All new patients attend an orientation group to learn about the program.
  • New patients who meet criteria for the Teen Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for substance use disorders may enroll in the program upon admission. Patients may also enroll during the course of treatment for additional support when needed. 
  • New methadone maintenance patients will be required to come into the center daily, except for Sundays when centers are closed.
  • New methadone maintenance patients will be required to come into the center daily, except for Sundays when centers are closed. 
  • During treatment, patients on methadone MAT may receive take-home bottles as they progress in treatment and will no longer need to attend daily.
  • Non-methadone MAT patients will meet with a prescriber once per week at the start of the program. As the client achieves stability and progresses in treatment, the frequency of appointments will progressively decline.
Family and caregiver support is critical for teens enrolled in our MAT programs. The most important thing you can do as the caregiver of a teen with a substance use disorder is to seek knowledge about substance use and ways to support your teen in achieving lasting recovery. Family and caregivers may be asked to join family sessions and other events to show their support, help their teen process challenges, and foster lasting and meaningful change.

Group Therapy

The Teen Intensive Outpatient Program for substance use disorders consists of three hours of structured outpatient group therapy five days per week. The program typically lasts between six and 12 weeks, but the amount of time varies depending on the individual teen’s needs, goals, and progress in treatment. Group therapy sessions are facilitated by a team of experienced and caring behavioral health professionals.
Group sessions focus on a range of topics including:
  • Relapse prevention
  • Building healthy relationships
  • Adaptive communication
  • Thought and emotion management
  • Mindfulness
  • Problem-solving
  • Understanding and coping with trauma
  • Stress management 
  • Life skills and basic needs management  
Groups may also focus on specialized topics including trauma, gender-specific concerns, LGBTQ issues, and support for survivors of abuse. These groups work to address the issues underlying substance use disorders, so participants are able to not only stop the use of substances, but also attain a life worth staying well for. This holistic approach to treatment helps participants heal on a fundamental level, and with an emphasis on growth, reflection, and self-knowledge, participants are given the tools and support they need to move through adversity and reach their full potential.
At Root Center, we believe that everyone deserves compassionate, comprehensive care. Money shouldn’t be a barrier to your teen’s treatment. Root Center accepts Medicaid, Medicare, and most private insurance carriers. If you are uninsured or under-insured, we have generous policies for providing reduced-cost care (sliding scale payment policy) to those who need it, which makes treatment available to everyone.
  • Identification: Drivers license, state ID or passport
  • Verification of current address
  • Social Security card
  • Clients must also meet the DSM criteria for a substance use disorder

How are the MAT options different?

Each MAT option has unique attributes, usages, and benefits. Root Center’s recovery team will work closely with your teen to assess his or her needs and determine if a MAT option is the right step in their recovery. There are many considerations when treating substance use disorders in teens and youth. Please call us today to begin exploring treatment options.

More information on MAT for teens with OUD can be found here.

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