Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Opioid-based drugs are one of the most common forms of prescription painkillers available on the commercial pharmacology market. They are frequently prescribed to patients under hospice care, for terminal illness, and to alleviate pain after major surgical procedures. Patients who are properly monitored very rarely develop addictions, as the doses are low and the drugs are only given for a limited amount of time.

People who obtain these drugs illegally tend to take them at higher doses, making it a lot easier to form an addiction. These drugs are incredibly strong and many can lead to sudden death if a user overdoses – especially if they are young.

What Does Teen Opioid Abuse Look Like?

  • Teens are most likely to become addicted to opioids after taking a relative or friend’s legally prescribed drugs and using them recreationally.
  • Opioids attach themselves to the receptors that tell the brain to reduce pain levels in the body. During this process, they also alter the amount of dopamine that enters the bloodstream, creating a sense of euphoria. To acclimatize, the brain creates more receptors, leading to the user needing more of the drug to feel the same effect. This is how opiate addiction forms.
  • Opioids should never be combined with sedatives, alcohol, anxiety medications or sleeping pills. The combination enhances the depressant effect, suppressing breathing. This can result in asphyxiation (death from a lack of oxygen).
  • People who are abusing opioids often seem to be moving slowly, as though they aren’t quite there. They may doze off (called “the nods”) or even fall asleep in inappropriate places, especially right after using.

Signs of Teen Opioid Abuse

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Pain sensitivity

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Nausea or vomiting

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Depressed breathing

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Small pupils

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Sensation of euphoria

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Decreased energy

What Types of Opioids Are Commonly Abused?

Opioid drugs are almost all synthetically derived with chemical properties that mirror opium; some, like morphine, are more natural than others. Opium itself comes from the poppy plant, which is responsible for the original creation of heroin, morphine and hydrocodone. The most abused opioids include painkillers commonly prescribed by doctors.


  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Diphenoxylate
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Propoxyphene
  • Hydromorphone
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone

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Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

What Causes Teen Opioid Abuse?

The majority of teens addicted to opioids start because they had some sort of access to prescription drugs. These eventually lead many to addiction, and later, heroin, which is always distributed via illegal channels. Teens tend to incorrectly view prescriptions as less damaging than street drugs, and may assume they’re safe when they aren’t.

Availability – This is a huge factor in addiction. The easier it is for a teen to find someone who can give them a drug, or at least access it for them, the higher their risk for abuse. The United States is the number one country when it comes to the consumption of opioids, legally and illegally obtained.

Mental health –  Despite their availability, opioids aren’t usually a teen’s first choice. They end up liking the euphoric effect if they are already struggling with emotional problems. They begin to view opioids as a source of relief and happiness, prioritizing their mental and emotional pain relief over what they know may be the risks associated with use. Teens with a mental health history are more likely to abuse drugs than others.

Genetics – Teens with a genetic or family history of substance abuse may become addicted more easily than others. This is the main reason people for addiction among people who are legally prescribed opioids and take them properly.


of high school seniors have used a prescription drug recreationally in the last 30 days


teens admitted to using painkillers in 2016. More than 122K became addicted


of teens abusing opioids also used marijuana; 15% mixed opioids with alcohol

How Can I Help My Teen with Opioid Abuse?

Seek Professional Help – You can’t do this alone. Opioid drugs are especially potent and are known for tangling teens in a deadly web. The road ahead will be challenging, even with the help of professionals. Getting professional help is the only way to keep your teen from becoming one of the tens of thousands who die from opioid abuse each year.

Look for Recovery Resources – Work with your teen to find resources. The further yoru teen spirals into addiction, the less the rest of the world matters. Your teen will need you to help remind them of how amazing and fulfilling living a healthy life can be. Spend time together looking for recovery groups, trying new hobbies, and finding new ways to embrace a sober path after quitting.

Be a Source of Support – It’s important to recognize that teens tend to turn to opioids because they are dealing with deep-rooted mental health issues or traumas. Some don’t get diagnosed until they start treatment for their addiction. This means your teen may be back to struggling not only with the cravings created by addiction, but with separate mental health challenges as well. They will need the support of friends and family as they struggle to stay on the right path.

What Types of Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment Are Available?

The treatment for opioid abuse is similar to what a teen would receive for any other sort of substance abuse. A residential or inpatient setting is preferred in the beginning (mostly due to the extreme symptoms associated with withdrawal) but some patients opt for outpatient programs instead. Most people find treatments effective when they combine both medicine and therapy.


Teens struggling with opioid addiction have to be carefully weaned off of their drugs. Their physician-supervised program will involve the use of weaker opioid medications at first to minimize these symptoms; dosages are decreased over time. Weaning a teen slowly helps to reduce the cravings that come with withdrawal. While other withdrawal symptoms are less severe than with other substances, the cravings can feel unmanageable for many.

Methadone and Buprenorphine are the drugs most often chosen to help wean teens from opioids. Naltrexone is sometimes used to help reduce the risk of a relapse once the drugs are gone, and can also be administered if a teen overdoses.

Talk Therapy

We usually wait until after a teen has finished the withdrawal process to start therapy. Talking to a professional will help a teen to better understand both the behavioral and mental impacts their addiction was having on their life.

Relapse is common among opioid users, making it more important than ever to address the underlying cause of the drug abuse to begin with. Your teen’s therapist will help them better understand their triggers so they can not only avoid them, but develop healthier coping mechanisms as well. We’ll also work to make sure your teen builds a strong support network.

Residential Treatment

Residential programs are critical to safely treating drug addictions, especially when looking at potent opioids. Teens live in a safe environment with 24/7 access to specialists, therapists and experienced medical staff. Living in a residential program is a pathway to recovery.

Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Every teen had different physical, emotional and psychological needs. That’s why the programs at Paradigm San Francisco are designed with a multimodal approach. Teens who struggle with addiction carry deep psychological wounds, sometimes formed before their drug use and sometimes after, but always worsened by their drug of choice. Our goal is to help each teen who seeks treatment understand all of the factors impacting their choices.

Drug-Free Facilities

Our Paradigm San Francisco facilities are located near several different beaches, hiking spots and parks – all of which teens are encouraged to explore as they spend time outdoors. We offer a myriad of amenities, including individual and group therapy sessions, so each teen in the program can heal, plan for the future and even prepare themselves for stress or possibility of a relapse.

Working Together

While each teen at Paradigm San Francisco receives individualized care, working in groups helps rebuild trust as teens learn how to maintain healthy, functional relationships again. Making friends with people who understand will only strengthen your teen’s support network.

If you are considering sending your child here, there is no need to hesitate. It brings me to tears when I think about the person I was and the person I am today. I thank paradigm for everything they did for me.

– Juliet D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Opioid Abuse Treatment

Does the US really have an opioid crisis?

The United States ranks number one in the world when it comes to the consumption of opioids. This is directly related to the popularity and over-prescription of these drugs in the late 90s. Unfortunately, the healthcare system frequently struggles to help chronic pain patients live comfortable lives. Other countries struggle with the same issues, but still avoid painkillers.

While regulations regarding the use of opioids are changing, causing prescription rates to decline, heroin use has increased. People are still able to easily obtain opioids from illegal sources, especially from dealers who have access to overseas shipments. In the year 2017 alone, there were more than 47,600 overdose deaths related to opioids. That number made up more than 67 percent of all of the overdose deaths that year.

How do opioids impact a teen’s development?

Teens are more susceptible to addiction after opioid abuse because their brains are not yet fully developed. The younger they start, the easier it is to develop a problem. Once a teen starts using, they may experience problems ranging from sleep disorders to muscle pain, breathing problems, heart abnormalities and brain damage. They may also die from either drug-induced organ failure or overdose.

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