While many teens may be at risk for developing a substance abuse problem, at-risk youth face different challenges that can put them in greater danger. An at-risk youth is a teen facing circumstances or conditions that may negatively impact all areas of their lives. Often, these factors are out of their control, and teens find themselves in less-than-ideal situations.
As we look at the challenges at-risk youth face, we’ll also examine how substance abuse treatment for at-risk youth can help them get sober and get on the pathway to success, as well as the importance of early intervention.
Challenges At-Risk Youth Face
At-risk youth can be extremely vulnerable, making them more likely to use drugs for comfort. The following factors may result in a teen being labeled as at-risk :
- Lack of parental supervision
- Academic problems
- Easy access to drugs
- Child abuse or neglect
- Undiagnosed mental health problems
- Peer substance abuse
Risk factors during early childhood can further increase the risk of youth substance abuse. Also, prolonged risk factors can increase the likelihood of a teen developing a substance use problem.
Substance Abuse Treatment for At-Risk Youth
While all substance abuse treatment for youth aims to treat the issues specific to that age group, approaches can be different for at-risk youth. Since this group faces different challenges, the treatment programs can also differ.
These are some elements of treatment programs that can benefit at-risk youth:
Trauma-informed care is the need to understand a patient’s life experiences to deliver effective care.  Looking at the factors an at-risk youth has faced throughout their lives can help to get them the treatment they need for their substance abuse.
Culturally Sensitive Care
By definition, culturally sensitive care refers to care that “has the ability to be appropriately responsive to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of groups of people that share a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.” 
Culturally sensitive care regarding substance abuse can examine the challenges a particular group may face that may have impacted a teen’s decision to use drugs.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Substance abuse treatment for at-risk youth may also attempt to treat any underlying issues contributing to a teen’s drug use. This can include mental health issues and abuse, among other factors.
Teens may also look to holistic treatments as part of their program. This can include art therapy, exercise, and music therapy. Some at-risk youth may have never been introduced to such programs and may not be familiar with their benefits.
Life Skills Training
Life skills training can also be a helpful part of a treatment program because it can give youth the tools they need to succeed once their program is over. These skills may be able to get them out of situations that put them at risk in the first place. Life skills can also help develop job skills they can use as they age.
Many at-risk youths may not have access to extracurricular activities that can help steer them away from negativity and drugs. Helping these teens find programs that are accessible can also become part of their treatment program. This is especially true for teens who may have turned to drugs out of boredom.
Teens can try many different types of programs as they get on the path to sobriety.
The Importance of Early Intervention and Its Connection to Substance Abuse Treatment for At-Risk Youth
Early intervention is critical when talking about substance abuse treatment for at-risk youth. If substance abuse can be detected when it begins, treatment can start sooner, thus increasing the success rate of sobriety.
Discovering a drug problem early can also prevent it from becoming a more significant problem. Many teens start experimenting with a drug and then use it regularly until they become addicted. When it gets to this point, there can be dangerous consequences that can ultimately lead to death.
When an adult notices that a teen may be dealing with a substance problem, it’s essential to get them evaluated to see what types of issues they are having. This can also include the diagnosis of an underlying mental health issue, as many teens who deal with a substance problem also face a mental health issue. Seeking treatment for both issues at the same time can give teens a higher rate of success.
Many at-risk teens lack parental supervision at home, which may be needed to detect a drug problem. This is why school administrators and other adults must watch and be mindful of a teen who may need substance abuse treatment.
Seeking Substance Abuse Treatment for At-Risk Youth at Ember Recovery
At Ember Recovery, we focus on helping youth deal with their substance abuse disorders. We know that they face different challenges that require tailored treatment. This is even more true when dealing with at-risk teens.
Our team is trained and experienced to offer substance abuse treatment for at-risk youth to overcome their addiction and get the skills they need to succeed in life. Call us today to learn more about our teen programs and how they can help your loved one.
Sources: https://youth.gov/youth-topics/risk-and-protective-factors  https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/childrens_mental_health/atc-whitepaper-040616.pdf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092156/
Andrea Dickerson is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Substance Use Counselor who has worked in behavioral health since 1997. Currently, Andrea is the Director of Behavioral Health, overseeing the Ember residential treatment programs and YSS outpatient counseling clinics throughout Central and North Central Iowa. She became a Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainer in 2006 and provides MI trainings throughout Iowa.
Andrea specializes in working with adolescents and their families and enjoys seeing the family relationships grow through therapy. Andrea is also a CARF International Surveyor, going around North America ensuring behavioral health organizations are meeting required standards.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs, as well as being an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. She has been a member of the SI of Des Moines club since 2012 and has been actively involved at the regional level, currently serving as Co-Governor of the Peaks to Plains Region.
Through her involvement in SIA, Andrea has been actively involved in the Dream Programs, coordinating annual Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls projects, which give girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.