Substance Abuse Treatment

Many jurisdictions allow emergency treatment, without parental consent, of intoxicated minors or minors at risk of complications from withdrawal from alcohol or substances. In Massachusetts, a child age 12 or older may give consent to hospital and medical care to treat drug dependency, but the age may differ depending on the state. Minors can often consent to medical care and counseling related to the diagnosis and treatment of problems related to alcohol and substance abuse; however, minors cannot receive replacement narcotic abuse treatment without parental consent. Federally funded substance abuse treatment programs are bound by federal confidentiality laws that prohibit disclosure of any information to parents unless the consultant believes 1) that the minor's situation poses a substantial threat to the life or physical well-being of the minor or another person and 2) that the threat may be reduced by communicating with the minor's parents. Some examples of dangerous behaviors as a result of substance use include motor vehicle accidents, suicidal or homicidal threats, self-injurious behaviors such as jumping or falling out of a window while intoxicated, or drug or alcohol overdose (accidental or intentional). In general, the parent or guardian should be notified if, as a result of substance use, a child or adolescent is incapacitated, in need of medical attention, likely to suffer or cause physical damage, disorderly, or likely to cause property damage (Pries and Rosenzweig 2001).

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