Story 4

What Type of Treatment Makes Sense for My Child?

Clearly the most intense and comprehensive treatment for my son would be the most beneficial, right? Once again, wrong!

After that horrific Saturday night in March of 2014, my strong instinct was to lock my son down to protect him. In my gut, I thought that we should send him away to residential addiction treatment. Clearly, the most intense and comprehensive treatment for my son would be the most beneficial, right?

Once again, wrong!

We had the benefit of consulting with an adolescent psychiatrist with an addiction specialty. He told us that Stevie would respond best by starting his treatment in an outpatient setting and not residential. If the outpatient treatment proved not to be enough, we could always send him away to residential treatment. We took his advice. He was so right.

Had we forced residential treatment on Stevie before he was ready, it is crystal clear to me today that he would not have engaged and would have wasted the opportunity. He would have fiercely resented us for forcing him to go. There is scientific evidence that shows that forcing too restrictive care when it is not appropriate can produce worse outcomes. Yes, more expensive and restrictive addiction treatment can have a detrimental effect if a lower level of care is more appropriate.

Wow! Who knew?

It turns out that this is an issue that addiction researchers and psychiatrists at the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have been studying for over forty years. They have built the gold-standard tools used by professional clinicians to assess the proper level of care for individuals suffering from addiction and for those suffering from addiction along with other mental health issues.

Unfortunately, treatment decisions today are typically made by consulting with non-professionals or made by searching the internet where residential treatment centers proliferate, and outpatient centers are hardly represented at all. The end result is that too many people start with the wrong treatment.

In 2020, ASAM partnered with a national addiction non-profit and a health tech company to create a consumer-friendly assessment tool called the Addiction Treatment Needs Assessment (ATNA).

In the year since launch, thousands of users have completed the assessment and well over 50% of the users have been directed to seek outpatient treatment as the first step.

It is important to note that over 70% of the ATNA assessments also recommended mental health services as part of the addiction treatment. Addiction combined with mental health challenges is common.

The recommendations that ATNA produces for consumers is an important free service to families in-need and a significant improvement from what a simple Google search will do. In fact, the company Google itself recommends ATNA on its Recover Together website.

Please take 5-minutes and determine the proper treatment starting point for your loved one: