Monday, September 2, 2013
Be Cautious of Boot Camps and Wilderness Programs for Your Addicted Teen
Earlier this month a few of us attended a Lunch ‘n’ Learn event at CASAColumbia with Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She discussed the theme of her book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), an exposé of the “tough love” business.
The talk prompted us to revisit and share what we at The Partnership at Drugfree.org know about boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled and/or addicted teens.
First, it is important to note that boot camps and wilderness programs are not included among the levels of care defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Although you may have heard success stories or read about the benefits of boot camps, we strongly suggest you look very carefully into any boot camp or wilderness program before sending your teen for substance abuse treatment.
According to a government report, these programs are not subjected to federal oversight, and there have been thousands of reports of neglect and abuse at privately owned and operated boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled youth.
Ms. Szalavitz explained that a person with the disease of addiction is already in a lot of pain. To get better, that person doesn’t need more pain and abuse, but rather a kind and supportive approach to treatment. One that’s comprehensive, respectfully addressing the individual’s physical, emotional and social issues. One that makes the person feel better.
We suggest that if you are seriously considering a boot camp or wilderness program, you check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the program. You should also call the program and ask a lot of questions, including:
1) What specific substance abuse and mental health licensing and accreditation does the program have? (If the providers are not licensed, do NOT send your child to the program.)
2) Has a child in the care of the program ever died, and if so, why?
3) What specific training (particularly survival skills training for outdoor programs) do the counselors have?
4) Have there have been any complaints of abuse or neglect at the camp?
5) Can you put me in touch with a few families that have a child who have completed the program so that I can hear about their experience?
6) Who is responsible for medical care? (It should be a licensed medical doctor.)
Remember, addiction is a serious health issue and requires appropriate treatment by licensed professionals so that addicted persons can learn how to manage drug and alcohol problems, how to handle relapse and how to live a life free of drugs and alcohol.
From Intervene--A community of parents concerned about their teen's alcohol and drug use. For more information visit: http://intervene.drugfree.org