Teen Rehab Centers
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1.3 million adolescents or 5% of those aged 12-17 needed substance abuse treatment. The survey also indicated that only 6.3% of adolescents that needed substance use treatment received it.1
Adolescents have certain needs when it comes to drug and alcohol recovery. Teenage rehabilitation centers are addiction treatment programs designed specifically for adolescents and teens that address the unique challenges people in this age group face when dealing with substance abuse.
These programs include a range of therapies and activities that help teens and their families deal with addiction and the issues that surround it.
Symptoms of Drug Addiction in Teenagers
Many signs and symptoms appear when a teen is abusing drugs. Parents, teachers, friends, and other people in a teen’s life need to know what signs to look for in order to provide intervention as soon as possible. Some of the common signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse include: 2-4
- Sudden changes in behavior and/or motivation.
- Changes in speech (slow, slurred, rapid, or pressured).
- Mood swings.
- Changes in energy levels (more sluggish or hyperactive).
- Becoming withdrawn or isolating from others.
- Poor hygiene.
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss.
- Spending time with a new group of friends.
- Lying or secretive behavior.
- Skipping school.
- Changes in academic performance.
- Neglecting other areas of life such as hobbies, sports, or relationships.
- Items missing from home.
- Unexplained spending of money.
- Changes in appetite.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Pinpoint or dilated pupils.
- Unsteady gait.
- Unusual breath odor.
- Persistent cough that doesn’t go away.
- Track marks from intravenous drug use.
- Raw or dripping nostrils from snorting drugs.
- Drug paraphernalia (bent spoons, cut up straws, pipes, rolling papers, tin foil, balloons, needles, capsules, etc.)
- Unusual scratching or picking at the skin.
- Signs of drug withdrawal (nausea, vomiting, sweating, irritability, etc.).
Many risk factors can make adolescents and teenagers more vulnerable to drug use. Some factors that can increase a teen’s risk of substance abuse include: 4
- Low socioeconomic status.
- Education level.
- History of physical or sexual abuse.
- Poor parental supervision.
- Inconsistent or inadequate discipline.
- Lack of family communication.
- Family history of alcohol or drug use (particularly in the parents).
- Poor impulse control.
- Academic difficulties.
- Unstable family life (broken homes, family tension, or conflict).
- Social difficulties.
- Unstable emotions and/or difficulty handling emotions.
- History of mental illness.
- Early childhood aggression or behavioral problems.
- Exposure to peer pressure.
- Living in a high-crime neighborhood.
- History of thrill-seeking behavior.
- Easy access to drugs.
- Low perception of the dangers of drug use.
Adolescent Recovery Programs
Teenage rehabilitation centers and adolescent recovery programs are designed to address specific issues that adolescents and teens who are abusing drugs may face. In addition to drug or alcohol abuse, a typical adolescent recovery program may address the following issues:
- Mental health
- Sexual health
- Body image
- Family problems
- Peer pressure
The treatment process at each teen rehab center may vary. But a typical course of treatment will include:
- Assessment and treatment planning: Treatment typically begins with a thorough assessment to determine the extent of substance abuse as well as any co-occurring mental health conditions. Once the assessment is completed, treatment can be planned to address each person’s unique needs.
- Detox: Detox is typically the first course of treatment for those entering a rehab program. Medically supervised detox can provide adolescents with medications and support throughout withdrawal to reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Individual and group therapy: Individual and group therapy help teens identify reasons for their drug use and find coping skills to deal with cravings and triggers to use drugs.
- Schoolwork: Many rehab centers for teens have academic programs so that teens don’t fall behind on schoolwork during treatment.
- Community meals: Treatment centers will typically provide 3 full community meals daily. Luxury treatment centers may provide gourmet or specialized meals for those with dietary restrictions.
- 12-step meetings: Many teen rehab centers offer regular 12-step meetings. These meetings promote abstinence, provide peer support, and use a linear process toward recovery using the traditional steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Holistic treatments: Some rehab centers for teens will provide holistic treatments and services in addition to standard treatment options. Some holistic treatments include acupuncture, massage, yoga, meditation, herbal medicines, biofeedback, and nutritional counseling.
- Aftercare planning and discharge: Prior to discharge from treatment, addiction treatment professionals will provide teens with aftercare plans to help sustain sobriety and to prevent relapse. This plan may include coping skills, therapists, 12-step meetings, a list of people to call when a craving arises, and a list of people, places, and situations to avoid to reduce the risk of relapse.
Many different therapies may be used in a teen rehab center, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps people learn to recognize the connections between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT techniques that may be used for drug addiction include outlining both the benefits and consequences of drug use, identifying high-risk situations to avoid cravings, and developing coping skills for dealing with cravings when they do arise.
- Motivational interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a form of therapy that encourages clients to explore their motivation for stopping drug use and empowers them to make different choices.
- Family therapy: Family therapy is an important part of adolescent drug addiction treatment because addiction impacts the entire family, not just the addicted person. Family therapy addresses the addiction within the context of the family unit, helping the family to address all dimensions of adolescent substance abuse.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps people become more present in the moment and aware of their thoughts and feelings. One mindfulness-based technique for drug addiction is called urge surfing. In this practice, when someone experiences a craving, they “surf the urge” by noticing the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise during the craving. They continue to observe thoughts and feelings until the urge passes, rather than giving in to the craving.
Adolescents and their parents need to understand that treatment doesn’t necessarily end when the teen completes the program. Follow-up with aftercare programs is highly recommended to maximize chances of long-term recovery. Some forms of aftercare include:
- 12-step programs: Continuing to attend weekly or biweekly 12-step meetings can help prevent relapse by providing ongoing support for recovery goals. These programs set up each person with a sponsor who can be called upon at any time, especially during a threat of relapse.
- Individual or group therapy: Continuing with individual and group therapy can also help sustain recovery. Therapists can assist with relapse prevention, coping skills, and uncovering any past traumas or emotional difficulties that may contribute to drug use.
- Sober living communities: Sober living homes for adolescents can be a bridge between treatment and home life. This environment helps teens slowly adapt to life outside the treatment facility while providing daily support.
- Recovery high schools: Recovery high schools are designed to help students in recovery finish their secondary education while also maintaining sobriety.
Inpatient treatment is the best option for those with severe addictions that may have difficulty coping with the triggers of the outside world.
Some of the most common types of treatment programs and rehab centers for teens include:
- Inpatient teen rehabilitation centers: Inpatient teenage rehabilitation centers provide 24/7 care and support for a designated period of time, typically ranging from 28-90 days. Inpatient treatment is the best option for those with severe addictions that may have difficulty coping with the triggers of the outside world. Most inpatient rehab centers for teens will have some form of academic program so that teens can stay caught up on their schoolwork during treatment.
- Outpatient teen rehabilitation centers: Outpatient teen rehab centers typically offer the same types of treatments as inpatient teen rehab centers. But the care takes place on a part-time basis while the teenager continues to reside at home and attend school.
- 12-step programs: Some 12-step programs are designed specifically for teens in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. One example is Teen Addiction Anonymous.
- Wilderness therapy programs: Wilderness therapy programs for teens approach treatment by spending time outdoors and connecting with nature. Adolescents in these programs typically learn survival skills and participate in traditional counseling.
Although some teen rehab centers and treatment programs may treat both genders simultaneously, many facilities provide either male- or female-only programs because mixing genders can be distraction for many adolescents.
An intervention is a carefully planned event attended by loved ones and sometimes addiction professionals in hopes of motivating an addicted person to choose treatment for drug abuse. Interventions can be successful, but there are some drawbacks to consider.
The pros of an intervention include:
- Support and encouragement from family members and friends.
- Opportunity to address the addicted person’s behavior in an empathetic, loving way.
- Support from intervention specialists that can help get the person into treatment as soon as possible and provide ongoing guidance throughout the process.
The cons of an intervention include:
- Potential for poor communication. If poorly planned or executed, an intervention may not work. Everyone present at the intervention needs to be on the same page and use loving rather than blaming communication so that the addicted person doesn’t feel defensive.
- Potential for lack of follow through. Interventions require follow through. If you tell your teenager you are going to take away a privilege if he or she doesn’t seek treatment, then you must be willing to follow through with that and not be swayed by high emotions or guilt.
- Potential for overplaying authority. Although a parent or guardian can legally force an adolescent to go to treatment, the outlook for long-term success is greater when the teen has motivation to stop using drugs.
- Bose, J., Hedden, S., et. al. (2015). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are signs of drug use in adolescents, and what role can parents play in getting treatment?
- Vorvick, J. (2015). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Teenagers and Drugs.
- Shahid, A., Mouton, C., et. al. (2011). Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(12): 24-28.