Recent statistics show a decline in overall teen drug abuse, but teens continue to be affected by issues like peer pressure and a desire to experiment, which, in some cases, leads to drug addiction.1 When faced with a drug addiction, treatment is essential, and teen drug rehab facilities offer programs specifically for adolescents suffering from substance abuse issues.
However, though these programs exist, among the approximately 1.5 million teens who meet the official criteria for a substance abuse disorder, only around 111,000 seek help.2 Learning about your treatment options may help you or your loved one get the help you need.
Teen drug treatment options include both inpatient and outpatient programs. The type that’s best for your teen depends on a wide range of factors, such as the duration or the magnitude of drug or alcohol use, your home environment, and social influences.3 Regardless of the setting, they’ll receive treatment from a team of qualified professionals who can help them stop using and begin living a happier, healthier life.
The Importance of Treatment
Treatment is often needed to address drug or alcohol addiction because, quite simply, it’s incredibly difficult to successfully quit on your own. You need guidance to understand the reasons for your behavior, to learn alternatives that can help you change your behavior, and to be guided into a new and healthy lifestyle. Read More
Signs of Addiction
The warning signs of teen drug addiction aren’t always obvious. One definitive characteristic of addiction is the overwhelming need to use a drug or substance despite negative consequences—but there are several other signs to look for as well.4
(Note: Some of these signs and symptoms might indicate the presence of a mental health issue alone; however, both would benefit from seeking professional evaluation and potential treatment.)
Signs of a teen drug addiction include:4
- Using drugs to relax or to cope with stress.
- Keeping secrets or withdrawing from family and friends.
- Little or no interest in activities the teen used to enjoy.
- Problems at school with grades or attendance.
- Changes in circle of friends.
- Stealing or lying to obtain drugs.
- Spending more and more time thinking about using drugs or how to get them.
- Failed attempts to stop taking the drug.
- Mood swings or irritability.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Feeling shaky or ill when they can’t use the drug.
- Requiring more of the drug to achieve the same effect.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Changes in eating habits.
Concurrent with their addiction, some teens struggle with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Many treatment centers address both conditions simultaneously, which is known as dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis is the term used to refer to co-occurring drug addiction and mental health issues.
Whether dual diagnosis or substance abuse rehabilitation only, the typical length of treatment is 30, 60, or 90 days, and in some cases longer.2
The treatment process usually includes several components, including:2,3,4,5
- Detox. This is the phase where your teen stops using drugs or alcohol, during which they receive supervision and support from doctors and other qualified substance abuse professionals. In some cases, they may receive medication to help deal with withdrawal symptoms (which sometimes occur when you stop using drugs or alcohol), or medication to treat other physical or psychological problems your teen may have.
- Assessment and development of individualized treatment plan and goals. A psychological and medical assessment involves meeting with members of a treatment team (which might include psychiatrists and other doctors, social workers, psychologists, or other substance abuse professionals) to gather basic information and to determine the appropriate level of care based on your teen’s current circumstances and severity of addiction. After an assessment is complete, you and your child will discuss with the team the individualized treatment plan and goals for the treatment process, which includes formulating the overall duration and course of treatment.
- Individual and group therapy. Your teen will regularly participate in one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy, which is led by a therapist and involves other teens in the recovery program. Group therapy is the most frequently used form of treatment for teens in rehab.
- 12-step meetings. Based on the 12 steps of recovery outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-step groups are a type of support group where people share their experiences, work through the 12 steps with the guidance of a sponsor, and submit to a higher power to help them recover.
- Aftercare planning. Treatment doesn’t end once your teen completes a rehab program—for most people, recovery is a lifelong process. Aftercare involves a relapse prevention plan put in place to help your teen remain clean and sober once they have completed a formal treatment program. This step might include participation in individual counseling and regular attendance of 12-step meetings or other types of support groups.
- Discharge. This is the point when your teen is released from treatment, armed with their aftercare plan and prepared to face day-to-day life.
Some of the common therapies used in teen drug treatment include:2,6,7,8,9
- Family therapy. An important part of many teen substance abuse programs, family therapy helps kids and their families identify and work through issues that may be contributing to the problem. One specific form of family therapy, known as Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy (MFT), has shown promise in two studies in teens with substance abuse problems. The result of participating in MFT was reduced substance use and improved mental health when compared to teens treated only with CBT.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This therapy is based on the idea that dysfunctional or unhealthy thoughts cause negative or destructive behaviors. So, by learning to change these thought patterns, your teen can learn to act in healthier ways. For example, they will learn to identify faulty thought patterns and replace them with healthier ones; learn how to identify triggers and employ new coping skills; then discover how to use these thoughts and behavioral responses, should triggers arise.
- Motivational Interviewing (MI). This is a frequently used treatment for teen drug addiction that has had a high success rate in many clinical studies. It addresses a teen’s reluctance to change and draws upon and reinforces their own internal motivation to promote positive behavioral changes.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is an effective form of treatment that can help people struggling with a wide range of issues, such as substance abuse, suicidality, or eating disorders. DBT is a combination of CBT and acceptance-based approaches, such as mindfulness. It helps people learn new skills that they apply to achieve positive behavioral changes.
How to Choose a Program
Choosing the right teen drug rehab program depends on your child’s specific needs. Different programs offer different services, have different treatment durations, and can vary widely in cost.
Some of the considerations to take into account when choosing a treatment center include:10
- Location. Consider whether it will be beneficial for your teen to undergo treatment close to home or in another state. Some teens prefer the option to be treated in a place where they feel relatively anonymous, while others want to remain near home.
- Cost. Treatment costs don’t have to be prohibitive. There are several options for funding treatment, including insurance coverage and payment plans, but this issue tends to be the biggest one facing most families.
- Treatment approach. Teen rehab centers have different philosophies that can range from 12-step to evidence-based to faith-based approaches. One systematic analysis showed that 70% of treatment programs offer a combination of approaches, with the most widely used being 12-step and CBT.
- Staff. It’s important for staff members to be able to understand what a teen is going through and to know how to relate to them in a manner that facilitates trust and motivation. Consider what type of qualifications and experience the staff has before deciding on a specific facility.
- Amenities. This can vary widely by treatment program—some facilities offer more comfortable and luxurious amenities that come with a higher price tag. For example, you might want to consider whether amenities such as private rooms or a gym will play a role in your decision.
- Co-occurring disorders. Ask whether the program has qualified medical staff, such as psychiatrists, who can evaluate and treat a co-occurring disorder, should your teen also suffer from a mental health issue.
- Alumni programs. An alumni program connects people who have just completed addiction treatment with others who have also completed the program, but who have a substantial amount of time clean and sober. They act as mentors who provide support for teens who are just reentering their day-to-day lives. Also, programs that maintain an active alumni network show that they are regularly engaged with you long after you complete their program, demonstrating genuine interest in your life-long sobriety.
- Reviews. The experience of others can provide insight into how the program works and may tell you if it might meet the needs of your teen.
Cost and Payment
Admittedly, paying for treatment might require some creativity if your preferred facility does not accept insurance or your insurance company only covers part of the costs.Many factors influence the overall cost of treatment, including:
- The length of stay.
- Available amenities.
- The location of the treatment facility.
- Your insurance coverage.
- Any extras, such as treatments or therapies that your teen might participate in above the standard treatments offered (extras might include a private room or therapies such as hypnotherapy or biofeedback).
Admittedly, paying for treatment might require some creativity if your preferred facility does not accept insurance or your insurance company only covers part of the costs. In addition to health insurance, some of the ways people have financed recovery include:
- Paying out-of-pocket.
- Borrowing money from supportive friends or family.
- Using credit cards (even with interest, being able to pay off a bit each month might make treatment more affordable in the short term).
- Taking out private loans.
- Starting a crowd-funding campaign.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.
- Winters, K., Botzet, A., & Fahnhorst, T. (2011). Advances in Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 13(5), 416–421.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide: Treatment Settings.
- Nemours Foundation. (2014). Dealing with Addiction.
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. (2016). What is Treatment?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Intervention Summary: Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abuse Offers Broad, Lasting Benefits.
- Barnett, E., Sussman, S., Smith, C., Rohrbach, L., & Spruijt-Metz, D. (2012). Motivational Interviewing for Adolescent Substance Use: A Review of the Literature. Addictive Behaviors, 37(12), 1325–1334.
- Kern-Godal, A., Arnevik, E., Walderhaug, E., & Ravndal, E. (2015). Substance use disorder treatment retention and completion: a prospective study of horse-assisted therapy (HAT) for young adults. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 10:21.
- National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking. (2004). Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. 15. Teen Treatment: Addressing Alcohol Problems Among Adolescents. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.