NBC News: Which Adolescent Rehabs Offer the Best Treatment? Science can Tell Us (And We Can Tell Each Other)

adolescent rehab

How to Fix Rehab: Expert Who Lost Son to Addiction Has a Plan – NBC News.com.

This is a very encouraging article about  efforts by Thomas McLellan, a research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, to identify the characteristics of effective adolescent rehabilitation programs and develop an online tool that parents can turn to in order to find the best available services when their children are in need.  McClellan had two addicted sons and lost the younger one to an overdose and he is committed to finding and promoting programs that provide treatment that reflect what science has learned about the problem of addiction.  


In order to construct his web-based review of adolescent treatment programs, Dr. McLellan asked Consumer Reports to coach him in the art of conducting comparative reviews, and then, as this NBC News report explains, he and his colleagues “frisked the literature of addiction, developing a list of 10 features of “quality programs.” They broke those features into dozens of components, each backed by at least two peer-reviewed studies”.


What they found was that the most effective programs have“(high) quality employees, including mental health specialists, family therapists, and medical professionals. They tailor treatment based on the patient’s needs, not rigid program dictates. They prescribe medicine, attend to physical health and educational hurdles, and they prepare the patient for a long-term recovery, including monitoring and support.


McLellan’s  Consumer Guide to Adolescent Rehab is currently  limited to programs in the Philadelphia area. But NBC calls the result  ” powerful and unprecedented, a merciless blend of science and consumer empowerment. “

Interestingly, some programs have refused to be evaluated by McLellan’s team and Patrick Kennedy, who was interviewed for this report, and who complained that none of the top rehabs he attended really helped him to achieve sobriety observed that, “It’s a dirty little secret, “but none of these places want to be evaluated.”


NBC notes that Dr. McLellan hopes to end closed-door policies by listing the uncooperative programs in the guide anyhow, next to a red-stamp that says: Refused. But it notes that key for this crusader is “still users—and lots of them. He wants people pounding desks, demanding that their insurers cover the best treatments, not just the cheapest options that comply with the ACA.”


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