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Teenage Rehabilitation: Options for Teen Substance Abuse Treatment

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Eric Patterson, LPC

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Last Updated - 11/12/20

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Updated 11/12/2020

Substance use disorders are not the same for everyone. Teens require specialized services to identify and treat their drug or alcohol addiction.

By the time students reach 12th grade, about 60% will try alcohol and more than 47% will use an illicit substance, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With these high levels of substance use, many teenagers will need substance abuse treatment options to identify and manage symptoms. Though the process is uniquely challenging, teen rehabilitation and teen rehab options are widely available and tailored to the individual’s needs.

How to Talk About Substance Abuse with Teens

Many parents may shy away from talking about substance abuse with teens. The situation is uncomfortable but often necessary. Great conversations involve:

  • Open communication to express concerns and gather information about your teen’s perspective
  • Encouragement to show that you believe in them, which will help build trust and confidence
  • Negotiation that offers parents and teens a way to join forces towards a common goal and find solutions that benefit everyone
  • Limits that make rules, expectations, and consequences clear, so your teen can increase self-control and responsibility for their actions

When you talk to a teen about substance abuse is nearly as important as how you talk to them. Focus on prevention by speaking early and often on the subject, instead of waiting until the problem is firmly established. Conversations about substance use should always come from a place of love and understanding, rather than from anger and judgment. Avoid name-calling and aggression because these approaches will only trigger a defensive reaction from your teen.

Following the conversation, most adults will need increased supervision with their teen. Supervision can help observe and monitor the teen’s behavior to have a better understanding of your child’s patterns, actions, and interests. Supervision does not involve stalking or secretly following around your child. It only means you’ll devote more time to learning about them.

Pop Culture, Substance Abuse, & Addiction

Chances are your teen will have plenty of knowledge about addiction, dependence and recovery. TV shows, music lyrics, videos and movies have long discussed and, in some cases, glamorized substance abuse.

During conversations, parents should work to assess what their teen knows and thinks about addiction and recovery issues, and which sources provided this information. Let them know that these examples may be dramatized for effect in the media, and they may not offer the most accurate information.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Teenager Is Doing Drugs

When parents suspect their teen is doing drugs, they tend to have strong emotional reactions that aim to “fix” or “solve” the substance use. Of course, every parent would like to decrease their teen’s substance use, but these quick reactions may do more harm than good.

If you think your teen is using drugs, start by gathering information over a few days or weeks and document what you see. Although the situation may seem private, consult with some trusted support people to compare what you see with what other people are noticing about your teen.

If you and your support people see the same patterns and effects, it is time to start the conversation with your teen. This conversation is a process that has to build and evolve over time, so avoid any ultimatums or harsh reactions at the beginning.

The first conversations can focus on:

  • Communicating what you have noticed with specific days and times
  • State your level of concern and your interest in helping
  • Ask how they view the situation and how you can help
  • Encourage treatment as a way to manage or prevent substance use issues
  • Let them know you will continue to watch and observe their behavior

Be assertive in stating your thoughts, feelings and goals, but give plenty of room to learn from your child and understand their point of view. With a strong, empathic understanding, you can address the situation now and in the future.

Signs of Drug Abuse in Adolescence

Separating clear signs of drug abuse from typical issues during the teen years can be challenging because they are so similar. A teen could be sleeping more, changing their friend groups and displaying mood changes without any substance use.

Many substances produce different results, so rather than focusing on one specific symptom, it is more helpful to look for overarching signs of abuse.

Some of the most common signs of drug abuse in teens include: 

  • Having behavioral or performance issues at school
  • New physical health issues like poor energy, low motivation, weight changes and unexplained injuries
  • Appearance changes with poor self-care, sporadic showering, wearing dirty clothes and not eating well
  • Behavioral changes like acting secretive, lying more or being aggressive
  • Money issues where they are asking for money, stealing money or things are missing from the home
  • Drug paraphernalia in the home like lighters, empty alcohol or pill bottles, bongs, pipes and bowls

If your teen is displaying any of these signs, it could indicate a serious issue with substance use that requires a period of teen rehab.

Types of Substance Abuse Programs for Teens

Teens who are abusing substances frequently benefit from a period of professional substance abuse treatment for adolescents. Often, these treatments will mirror those provided to adults, but there can be differences.

Substance abuse programs for teens will be specially designed to address the needs and abilities of adolescents. For example, group therapy sessions are very effective for adults, but teens may not thrive in this setting without expert guidance; they frequently try to impress or shock the other group members, which can be counterproductive.

Preventative options are wonderful ways to avoid the need for addiction services, but sadly, many teens continue to have symptoms despite prevention methods. For teens in need, there are three main types of substance abuse treatments:

  • Outpatient: as the lowest level of care, outpatient treatment involves any care where the teen visits the treatment center for an hour or two, has an appointment, and then goes home or to school. During these sessions, therapists may provide individual or family therapy, and prescribers may offer medications to address symptoms. Session frequency ranges from several times each week to monthly, based on the person’s needs.
  • Partial hospitalization: the middle level of care is called partial hospitalization (PHP). These programs are usually five days per week and last between four and six hours. For teens, these may resemble school with part of the day focused on academics and the other part focused on recovery. During this care, teens will continue living at home.
  • Residential/inpatient: for people who cannot succeed at home or have intense symptoms, residential or inpatient settings may be the most appropriate. These options involve the teen living at the treatment center during their stay and receiving around-the-clock care and structured programming.

A trained and experienced mental health professional should assess the teen thoroughly to determine which teen rehabilitation setting is ideal for them. As treatment progresses, they may move from a more intensive level of care to lower ones on their path towards sustained recovery. Be sure to research and explore potential treatment providers to understand the care your teen will receive, the professionals providing it and the expected outcomes.

We are here when you are ready.

Speak with a Recovery Advocate today to talk about your treatment options.

Recovery High Schools

Recovery high schools may include PHP or residential levels of care, depending on the seriousness of the addiction and substance use. Teens will attend classes intermixed with recovery-focused individual, group and family therapy.

This environment will allow the teen to devote more time and attention to recovery in a supportive and structured setting. Even better, they will not have to choose between their education and recovery. While recovery high schools may not work for every teen’s situation, they are valuable options to consider.

Programs For Parents With Teens Of Drug Abuse

Parents will play a necessary role in the treatment and recovery of a teen with addiction issues. Parents should also find ways to be included in their teen’s treatment plan, as long as the therapist believes it is best. You may want to consider treatment options that center around your needs as a parent.

Many parents of teens with addictions will benefit from counseling and other professional services to understand the impact of substance use, their role and their responsibilities in the future. You could also explore available support groups for people affected by a loved one’s substance use like:

Family members can benefit from exploring their choices to discover the programs that work well for their goals.

Online Substance Abuse Treatment Options During COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has forced treatment providers to swiftly adjust to their patients’ needs in an ever-evolving climate. Fortunately, providers met this demand by shifting many therapies and medication services to online options when available.

This change means that teens and their parents can receive professional addiction treatment from the comfort and safety of their living rooms. With telephone, video chat and text-based services, teletherapy is more available than ever before.

Don’t worry, though. Teens who still require higher levels of safety, structure and intensity can still receive in-person treatments with adjustments like physical distancing and masks to reduce risk.

Florida Teen Treatment & Recovery Resources

For teens struggling with substance use disorders and addictions in Florida, parents can consider treatment at Next Generation Village, The Recovery Village’s dedicated treatment facility for teenage rehabilitation. With experienced staff and a range of treatment choices, Next Generation Village could help your teen enter recovery and start a substance-free life.

View Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.” 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Use.” June 2019. Accessed October 3, 2020.

Mayo Clinic. “Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder).” October 26, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.” January 2014. Accessed October 3, 2020.

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