Drug Treatment for Teens

Parents of drug-dependent teens can have their children involuntarily committed to residential drug- and alcohol-treatment facilities. A littleknown and rarely used section of Pennsylvania’s Drug & Alcohol Abuse Control Act permits parents and legal guardians to petition the county court to determine whethera minor is in need of court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment, either outpaticnt or inpatient. A minor is a person under 18 years of age.

If the parent or guardianā€™s petition identifies facts that show “good reason’ for treatment, the court hasĀ the authority to take the minor into custody and to require an assessment by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or certified addiction counselor. The minor is entitled to a lawyer but is not entitled to have the lawyer present at the assessment.

After the assessment, the minor is entitled to a hearing before a judge. If the judge finds “clear and convincing” evidence at the hearing that the minor is drug- or alcohol-dependent and in need of treatment, the judge can commit theĀ minor to treatment for up to 45 days. At subsequent review hearings, the judge can continue to commit the minor to treatment for any number of successive periods of up to 45 days each. At least every 45 days, the minor is entitled to a review hearing before the judge.

Minors who are court-ordered into inpaticnt rehabilitation are unlikely to stay in care unless they actually benefit from the treatment by actively engaging in the recovery program, because most inpatient rehabilitation facilities discharge patients who refuse to cooperate with treatment. But skilled facilities are often able to help drug-and alcoholdependent teens transform their behavior and commit to treatment.

Parents and legal guardians sometimes can succeed in saving a young person’s life by seeking the court’s help in getting a minor into drug and alcohol treatment.

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