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Why You Shouldn't Send Your Kid To Rehab

Updated on November 26, 2011

If you've got a kid who's hanging round with the wrong crowd (and you're actually aware of it) you're probably concerned that your little princess is going to go Courtney Love on you. Maybe you think she already has. Maybe you've caught her smoking a few cigarettes behind the house, and maybe you've even smelt alcohol on her breath once or twice. I am not denying that these behaviors can lead to bigger problems, or even possible drug addiction/alcoholism, but I'm here to tell you that a proper drug treatment center is probably the last place you want to send this kid.

It's shocking, how many shrinks and other types of counselors even recommend institutionalization for kids who are clearly just being teenagers. It's gotten out of hand in the last decade, much the way dispensing medications like Ritalin has. If you have a child who is an out of control drug addict, drug rehab is a logical solution. If you don't, and you put your kid away regardless, you could well be interfering with that child's life on a scale beyond the scope of your own comprehension.

Treatment Centers and Regular Teens Don't Mix.

By regular, I mean those who are not addicts or alcoholics. Stick a kid who smokes pot once a month into a rehab with kids who're actually addicted to smack, and that kid is going to hear (and learn) things you'll wish they hadn't. War-stories are shared with remarkable frequency in rehab, many of them embellished to the point they become incredibly alluring to a regular kid who doesn't even know how to spell tourniquet.

Additionally, forcing your teen into rehab can create a parent/child rift that will never fade. You may tell yourself that sending Tommy away over a couple of beers is the right thing to do, but Tommy is not an idiot. He knows you're overreacting in a desperate attempt to control the situation. It's not a small thing, uprooting a kid and forcing them into an institution. If your kid is booting junk in his bedroom every night, yes, rehab is necessary. But don't delude yourself into thinking rehab is the best course for a kid who wouldn't know what a bong was if you cracked him over the head with it.

4 Things Your Kid Will Learn In Rehab:

  1. Smoking pot on weekends is nothing compared to everything else their rehab roommate has done.

  2. They're definitely not an addict or alcoholic, and are therefore safe to try other drugs without ever becoming subject to the perils of real addiction.

  3. There are far more exciting things to try than pot and beer. That, and their new rehab mates will be able to fill them in on precisely how to get it.

  4. How to cheat a drug test.

Other things to consider:

  • Bonding With Real Addicts and Criminals Is Likely: Living in close quarters for one to three months can create serious bonding. This is especially true when there is a common source of angst -- parents. Stick a group of confused and angry kids together and they will comfort each other by trashing the other's parents and offering support. Unfortunately, statistically speaking, some of these kids are going to be addicts and criminals. Are these the kids you want your child bonding with? Do you want your kid looking up to a real junkie who's in rehab thanks to a court order?

  • Sex Is A Very Real Possibility: Stick 30 or more hormonal teens under one roof and sex is a very real possibility. Of course, none of the staff are likely to admit to this, but if there are only two people on the night-shift, teens can be pretty clever when it comes to sneaking around.

  • DRUGS are yet another possibility: LSD and several other drugs are pretty easy to sneak into rehab, even with a full body search. Some kids go in having never seen it, and come out looking for more.

Post-Rehab can go a lot like this:

  • Your kid is now likely to be labeled a druggie. This can freak other parents out to the point they won't let their kids spend time with yours. You may well be forcing your kids to hang out with the neighborhood baddies, cos you've just eliminated everyone else.

  • Your kid may experience strong bouts of depression for the next decade or so, wondering how their parents could be so clueless about what was best for them. This depression can lead to the very drug and alcohol problems you thought you were curing with rehab.

  • Your kid may experience strong bouts of shame when in the company of the "good" kids and their parents, because he knows everyone thinks he's a loser now. Again, this can lead to the very drug and alcohol problems you thought you were curing him of via rehab.

2 more things to bear in mind:

  • One joint and a few beers do not an addict make: I'm not downplaying the usage of these things, I'm simply saying that teenage curiosity does not equal the addictive personality that typically precludes real addiction. If your 13 year old kid is toking up after school, yes, that's a problem -- but it's not one that you are going to solve by sending them off to rehab. Think back on your own teenage years: Did you try any of these things? Did they destroy your life? Unlikely, unless you developed a true addiction yourself. Which leads me to the next point.

  • Your children are not you: If you had drug problems back in the day, this does not mean your kids are going to suffer the same fate. Even if your child has the classic addictive personality, this does not guarantee that Junior is going to wind up an addict.

So what are your alternatives?

In my personal opinion, a psychologist is the best alternative. If your kid is starting to do things that worry you, send them to someone they can talk to. Don't get hung up over the fact that they won't talk to you -- that's not going to help them. And, if your kid doesn't like the psychologist you chose, pick another one -- there is no point in sending your kid to someone they aren't going to speak to. I recommend against psychiatrists, as they tend to be overly fond of medication and often present themselves in so sterile a fashion that teens are unlikely to speak to them.

Also: The kid who barely dabbles with drugs and alcohol is HIGHLY unlikely to be a drug addict and it's therefore HIGHLY inappropriate to send them to a drug counselor. All that counselor is going to do is treat your child like they are one, because drug counselors are conditioned to believe everyone in their office is a drug addict. That's not going to get you very far if your kid has some other problem going on.

And remember -- there may not be anything "wrong" with your kid at all! Most people have experimented with drugs and alcohol and went on to have perfectly normal lives. I am not condoning drugs, but the more taboo you make something, the more interesting it often becomes. By all means, be aware of what's going on with your kids, but try to remember your own past before getting carried away with your kid's future.

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