Teens have very unique needs when it comes to their treatment, so it can be worth it to take the time to find an inpatient rehab center that caters to an adolescent population. Substance addiction impacts different demographics in different ways. Your teen may feel more comfortable recovering in an environment consisting of peers in their age group.
Does My Teen Need Specialized Treatment?
Searching for the right rehab for their teen is a task that many parents face. Addiction is troubling enough when your adult loved one is struggling, but when your child is affected, the stress and worry may be particularly devastating. It is important to remember that you do have options, and that specialized treatment for teens does work
An estimated 180,000 adolescents between 12 and 17 were treated at a specialized facility for substance abuse in 2016 alone.
Teenage rehab facilities are well aware of the needs of their patients and can adapt their treatment plan for each individual patient. The need for this specialized treatment is clear. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):1
- 180,000 individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 received treatment for substance use disorders in 2016.
- Just over 4% of all adolescents between 12 and 17 had a substance use disorder that year in 2016.
- In 2016, more than 5,700 people in this age group used at least one illicit drug.
- The epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse is also affecting young people—in 2016, more than 880,000 kids between 12 and 17 misused opioid painkillers.
Whether your teen needs treatment is a question you may be able to answer by looking for some of the common signs of teen drug abuse. Is your teen:2
- Suddenly hanging out with new friends?
- Withdrawing from loved ones?
- Neglecting their personal appearance?
- Experiencing a sudden drop in grades/skipping classes?
- Abandoning their hobbies?
- Showing increased signs of aggression or getting into conflicts with loved ones?
- Eating more or less than usual?
- Changing their sleeping habits (e.g., staying awake all night, or sleeping excessively)?
If you're noticing signs such as those above that worry you, or if you're finding evidence of substance use (such as drug paraphernalia—pill bottles, pipes, etc.), treatment may be necessary. Substance use can have a significantly negative impact on the developing brain of an adolescent, and early drug abuse raises the risk of a substance use disorder in adulthood.3
Teen substance abuse is often a problem that needs to be addressed with the help of medical and/or mental health professionals. When it comes to teen substance abuse, professionals accustomed to working with this demographic will be able to provide your child the best possible specialized care.
How to Find Treatment for Your Teen
Many parents who suspect their teen may have a problem with substances are unsure where to begin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) advises enlisting the help of your child's doctor, an addiction treatment provider, or even a school counselor.2
Once you've determined that your child does indeed have a problem with drugs or alcohol, a medical or drug treatment professional can help to assess the severity of the problem and determine an appropriate treatment approach. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for drug addiction, and what worked for another teen may not be right for yours.
Inpatient rehab may not be needed in all cases. Other treatment options include standard outpatient therapy and higher-level outpatient care such as partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). Should your child be directed toward an inpatient facility, the length may vary based on their unique needs. NIDA finds that programs under 90 days may be of limited efficacy and that longer durations of treatment tend to result in better outcomes.4
While in inpatient rehabilitation, the teen will live in a structured environment that is conducive to sobriety. The temptations of the outside world—including drug-using friends—will not be present. The teen will be able to solely focus on learning about their addiction, uncovering the negative beliefs and issues that led them to use drugs, and building a toolbox of coping skills they can use to stay away from substances once treatment is completed.
Teen rehab facilities are located throughout the country. Some facilities that mostly cater to adults may also accept and treat teens, as well. This means you're not limited to facilities in your own city. Some teens and their families may prefer a program close to home while others may find it more beneficial to change scenery completely and get away from a triggering home environment. This is a personal choice and should be a family discussion.
What About Cost?
Publicly-funded rehabs are available in many locations; however, these programs can be difficult to get into and may have long waiting lists. Private rehab centers can get expensive; however, insurance will often cover some or all of the cost, depending on the plan and provider. If you have no insurance or your plan covers very little, there are also ways to alleviate the financial burden. You can inquire with the facility about options like loans, financing, and even scholarships (which may be given on a case-by-case basis according to need).
What Happens During Teen Treatment?
Adolescent substance abuse differs in many ways from adult substance use; for example, teens more frequently binge use substances, are slower to recognize their use is a problem, and are more likely to have a comorbid mental health disorder than adults.5 Teens are also more likely to be influenced by their peers.
For many years, teen treatment entailed the use of treatment protocols designed for adult populations, but addiction treatment professionals have come to understand that this population requires a different treatment approach.5 Many adolescent programs will utilize a combination of several treatment approaches, such as:5
- Individual and group therapy. Evidence-based treatments that may be used include:
- Motivational interviewing.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Contingency management.
- Family therapy.
- 12-step programs.
- Medications to manage withdrawal or cravings.
Understanding Therapeutic Methods for Teens
Motivational interviewing is a method commonly used in adolescent substance abuse treatment. The relationship between the teen and therapist is important, and the therapist will help to guide the teen in discovering their motivation to seek recovery. Unlike some adult rehab approaches, MI is non-confrontational and non-judgmental. It allows the teen to evaluate their own choices and respects their ability to make their own decisions.5
Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help the teen come to see how their thoughts fuel their behavior and learn how to change those thoughts. CBT also helps them to identify high-risk situations that may lead them to use drugs and helps them to build coping skills for cravings and triggering events.5 The skills that are developed as a result of a teen’s cognitive-behavioral efforts persist beyond the completion of treatment to help with sustained recovery.6
Contingency management approaches to treatment offer tangible rewards for patients in recovery who are making progress. These rewards may come for things like negative drug tests and may take many forms, including vouchers, money, or trips out of the treatment facility.5
Parents' willingness to participate fully in family therapy can be a huge benefit to the teen.
A huge part of treatment for the teen population is family therapy. A healthy family dynamic is key to a teen's sense of stability and the family is considered to be the primary influence on a child's development.5 Family-based therapy works to boost positive communication among family members, address any unresolved issues that may be contributing to a teen's drug use, and helps all members of the family learn better ways to solve problems.5 Parents' willingness to participate fully in family therapy can be a huge benefit to the teen, as parental involvement in both treatment and recovery has been shown to improve a teen's chances of success.5
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Just as the addiction must be treated, any co-occurring mental health issues must also be addressed, as lingering conditions that aren't treated may result in relapse. Mental health problems are unfortunately common in young people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of youth ages 13-18 have a mental health condition.7 If your teen concurrently struggles with a substance use disorder and a concurrent mental health issue like depression, panic disorder, or bipolar disorder, research teen programs that provide specialized care for dual diagnosis conditions.
Which Type of Facility Is Best?
The best teen rehab center is a facility that takes multiple approaches to treating your teen. A comprehensive approach to substance abuse is most effective at treating addiction at its core. Each teen is unique in his or her recovery needs.
Throughout treatment, it is important that the patient be periodically assessed to ensure that recovery progress is being made and that the current course of treatment is suitable. If it determined that treatment needs to be modified, those changes should take place quickly so that the child receives the best possible care. As you look around for treatment for your teen, ask program staff what types of therapies they offer, how long they've been treating teens, whether they continually reassess treatment plans, and other questions you may have. You may also ask about whether they help patients develop thorough aftercare plans or outline specific steps to take to maintain recovery after treatment. This could include beginning outpatient counseling, continuing family therapy, or even attending a recovery high school.
Early intervention can save your child's life. Don't be afraid to reach out today to get your child the help that they need.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2017). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are signs of drug use in adolescents, and what role can parents play in getting treatment?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.(2014). Link Between Underage Substance Use and Problems in Adulthood.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Is the duration of treatment sufficient?
- Winters, K. C., Botzet, A. M., & Fahnhorst, T. (2011). Advances in Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 13(5), 416–421.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine).
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental Health Facts CHILDREN & TEENS.