teen drug rehab

Teen Drug Rehab: Finding The Right Fit

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 90 percent of people who had addictions began their substance abuse prior to age 18. Learn to combat this reality with the right treatment for your teen.

rehabThe teen years are a time of experimentation, when teens straddle the line between living at home under the rule of their parents and living on their own, where there may be no rules at all. Adolescence is also a time of intense growth, when cells in the brain are dying, growing, and connecting with one another in new and diffkerent ways, and some of these changes make the brain more responsive to drugs. Put a need for independence and a changing braibn together and it’s a recipe for addiction. It’s no wonder that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 90 percent of people who had addictions began their substance abuse prior to age 18.

Addictions are characterized by compulsive use that’s outside the person’s control. People like this are physically and/or mentally unable to stop abusing substances, even though they might desperately want to do so. Giving control back means providing the person with in-depth, ongoing, comprehensive therapy. Teens who get help like this can recover, although they might need to spend the rest of their lives defending their sobriety and ensuring their bad habits don’t return. This article will outline some of the major tenets of a teen rehab.

If you have any questions about teen drug rehab, or you’d like to know more about how to enroll your son in a program like this, please contact us at Muir Wood.

Benefits of Inpatient Teen Rehab

Drug rehab programs begin when detoxification is complete and the person no longer has active drugs in the bloodstream. It’s a crucial point in the recovery process, as the teen could simply slide right back into the habits that helped the addiction to flourish. To capitalize on the gains the teen has already made, families will need to ensure that teen rehab begins right away with no delays. Sometimes, that’s an easy transition to make, as addiction treatment takes place within the same building that housed the teen during detox. But there are some families that choose to perform detox and rehab in different facilities. They’ll need to ensure that the teen isn’t given the chance to backslide.


In general, inpatient facilities are considered good choices for teens with a long history of addiction and a low level of motivation to succeed in rehab. These are the teens who don’t really believe that their addictions are a problem, and they’re adept at hiding their behaviors from their families. It would be very easy for these teens to start using drugs once more, and it would be hard for families to provide appropriate help when they’re so easily convinced that the addiction isn’t serious. In an inpatient program, teens will have the supervision they’ll need to ensure their sobriety, and they’ll be encouraged to stick with therapy until they have a firmer grip on the tools they’ll use to avoid drugs.

Teens with mental illnesses in addition to addictions might also benefit from inpatient care, and according to a study in the journal Adolescence, teens like this are common. Here, researchers found that pregnant, drug-abusing teen girls were more likely to be depressed than teen girls who did not abuse drugs. Teen drug abuse has also been linked to stress disorders and conduct disorders, and these teens might need help getting their mental illnesses under control so they can avoid using drugs in the future. It might be hard for teens to attain that level of care at home.

The Role of Medications

During the detox phase, medications can help to soothe symptoms and ensure that people stay enrolled long enough to see the process through to completion. As research about addictive drugs has continued, researchers have pinpointed specific medications that seem capable of soothing drug cravings for specific drugs, and those drugs might be appropriate for use months after detox is complete.

People who would benefit from medications like this have typically taken drugs like:

  • OxyContin
  • Percocet

In a study of the use of medications in teen drug users, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers found that teens who had access to replacement drugs like this fared better in treatment. While 60 percent of people who received medications for mere symptoms later came back for more treatment, only 25 percent of teens given one type of replacement medication, whether or not they had symptoms, did the same. For some teens, replacement drugs have a vital role to play, as this study makes clear.

While many teens can go through rehab without any medications at all, some need help with mental illness symptoms, including anxiety and depression. These teens might also need medication management, as with the proper prescription, they’ll learn that they can keep their symptoms at bay without leaning on drugs. This could be a vital lesson that allows teens to stay sober for the rest of their lives.

Therapy Techniques

In an addiction treatment program, the teen is asked to meet with a therapist on a regular basis to work on the addiction issue. One-on-one sessions might be helpful for some teens, but group meetings can also provide teens with the opportunity to meet with their peers and role-play or otherwise practice the skills they’re learning in therapy. The entire group serves to reinforce the lessons the therapist provides, and this could help to speed recovery.


Therapy can take many different forms, but often, teens are asked to think about the triggers that lead them to drug use. For some teens, peer pressure plays a role. For others, depression or anxiety is to blame. Once the hidden sensitivity is exposed, the teen can develop sophisticated tools that could be used to soothe the trigger, long before a relapse takes place. Avoidance, meditation, visualization or just straight talk could all be tools teens could use to diffuse a situation that might lead to drug use.

Other factors might come into play during teen drug treatment. For example, an article in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care reports that teens who take drugs often don’t develop social and emotional skills. While their peers are learning, they remain sedated and frozen in time, unable to move forward even though they might want to do so.

Therapy might help teens to pick up the tools they’ll need to survive in the adult world, including:

  • Personal responsibility
  • Ability to share
  • Goals
  • Communication skills
  • Respect for the law

These might be tools teens would have difficulty obtaining while they’re under the influence of drugs, but they might be lessons that are easier to learn when the drugs are gone and the teen understands that life must change.

Involving the Family

familyWhile addictions are private affairs and much of the addiction therapy is focused on the needs and preferences of the addicted teen, the family has likely changed as a result of the addiction. The parents may be increasingly distrustful of the teen, and resentful of all of the opportunities the teen has wasted due to the addiction. Siblings might feel as though they’re ignored within the family, since so much attention is placed on the addicted teen. Some parents also have permissive tendencies and they struggle with setting appropriate and consistent rules, and this environment could also inadvertently allow addictions to flourish.

Family therapy might be vital, as all members of the family will have the opportunity to understand how they have been touched by addiction and how they might need to change in order for the whole group to function as a unit. Family members might learn how to express their needs without placing blame, and all members of the family might come to understand that they have the right to happiness and a home without strife. Clear rules, consistent enforcement and mutual respect could be key to long-term success.

Some family therapy sessions are large, involving all members of the family in one big group. Other family therapy sessions are more intimate, involving just a few participants at a time. Mixing up the program in this way allows all members of the family to listen and be heard, without allowing any one person to dominate the conversation and/or keep others from obtaining the help they need.

Therapy can provide crucial lessons for teens, but sometimes, they can learn even more by listening to and sharing with others who have dealt with addiction and recovery. Support groups such as Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous could allow teens to meet others they can relate to, and this group can form a tight bond of understanding. These are informal groups that don’t utilize a counselor or a person in charge. Instead, they’re groupings in which the addiction and the desire for healing is the common thread, and everyone who attends has a lesson to learn and a lesson to share. Some meetings allow participants to share their stories aloud, while other meetings provide a guest speaker who has a specific lesson to share about addiction. Some meetings even allow participants to study a written document about addiction, and share their thoughts about what the lesson contained.

Support groups often ask members to form teams. An advanced member works as a mentor to a newer member, and the two provide one another with 24/7 support. A teen who feels as though a relapse is imminent can lean on this sobriety sponsor for advice, and perhaps avoid a slip in the process. These groups might also provide teens with the opportunity to volunteer in the community, allowing the teen to feel more connected to others and perhaps stronger in sobriety as a result.

Multiple studies have suggested that support group participation is vital in the fight against teen addiction. For example, a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that adolescent participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous was associated with abstinence over the long-term. Teens who used this model of care were able to continue their treatment, in essence, learning from their peers and remaining in contact with sobriety success stories.

Support groups like this might be introduced during teen rehab programs, and teens might be required to attend meetings and provide proof to their therapists that they have attended. When drug rehab is over, however, teens can continue to attend these meetings in the community, and they can continue to learn about how to maintain a sober life. It can be an excellent option for teens who need to continue learning and growing in sobriety.