Teen Rehab

Teen Rehab Programs

Almost 8% of American teenagers need teen rehab treatment for addiction or behavioral problems, according to the “National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse.”

That puts the number of teen drug and alcohol abusers in the millions.

Teen rehab centers are drug and alcohol detox and treatment programs that specialize in adolescent care. The typical age range for enrollment is 11-17 years old, but some centers take patients as young as nine years old.

Because of the sensitive nature of drug and alcohol addiction, it is important to choose a teen rehab center that provides a comfortable, knowledgeable environment.

Substance abuse may be very common in young adulthood. Yet late adolescence is a very hard time of life to be sidelined by alcoholism or drug addiction. Adolescent psychologists often speak about the three tasks of this period of life:

  • Breaking away from parents
  • Finding one’s life work
  • Finding a life partner

These things are not easy to do. If a young adult becomes addicted, the years when he or she should be fulfilling the three tasks are wasted on addictions. This is crucial time that has been lost for self-development.

Teen Rehab VS Adult Rehab

Treatment professionals have only recently recognized that substance abuse treatment programs for adolescents cannot simply be scaled-down versions of adult programs. Adolescents are not simply “little adults.”

Unlike their adult counterparts, adolescents in treatment have more family difficulties, are more likely to have psychological problems, and are more likely to have attempted suicide.

Their alcohol and drug use patterns are also different. Teens tend to abuse multiple substances, while adults are more singular in abuse.

The path to hitting a “bottom” is also different. For adults, entry into treatment is usually the result of loss of job or family, chronic medical problems, or encounters with the law.

The “red flags” for adolescents are more subtle and revealed in school performance, peer relationships, and interactions within the family.

For most teens, referral to treatment is involuntary and usually there is an intervention by family, school, or the judicial system. Once into treatment, teens seek out and respond to different treatments, favoring group therapy over individual.

Most adult treatment programs are not set up to deal with the oppositional or acting-out behaviors characteristic of adolescent substance abusers. Fortunately, most residential facilities do not mix teen and adult recovery programs.


If your teen has been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, he or she may have to go through detoxification.

Detox is a process that rids the body of the addictive chemical and has to be done in a hospital or medical setting. The addict may go through severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, fever, delirium, headaches and nausea.

Detoxification can take as long as five days. It is key to find a treatment center that educates teens in addition to medically treating them.
A 12 Step Program in addition to medical treatment is usually a great combination for most teens.

Teen Addiction

Teen addiction is an urgent problem because the human brain does not fully develop until age thirty.Alcoholism and drug addiction can permanently damage not only the brain but also the liver and other vital organs of young adults.

That effect is worse for women’s organs. Young women become addicted more quickly than males; however, there are more male addicts.

Certain events such as parental divorce, poor grades in school or breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend can have a profound impact on young adults.

These can become barriers to their recoveries if counselors do not have special training to treat young people.

Young adults who abuse chemicals often have underlying problems that must be addressed if they are to recover.

For example, undiagnosed learning disorders may have caused school failures in the past.

If the person gets a proper diagnosis and enters a school program where he or she can succeed, then often depression and low self-esteem clears up and so does the addiction.

Young addicts and alcoholics often suffer from conduct disorders, bullying, sexual victimization, and eating disorders.

There are even gender differences in treatments for young adult addicts.

For example, young female alcoholics and drug addicts often report more depression than boys, seek out older inappropriate boyfriends as “protectors,” and have trouble making girlfriends.

Because young adults have a special set of problems, they belong in substance abuse rehabs for teens. Age appropriate techniques, such as using peer pressure, can be very effective. Young adults care a lot about what others their age think of them.

Parents Need To Play An Active Role

Parents play a very important role in the life development process of their teen. That influence must continue through the days of treatment and therapy for a rehab stay to have any real chance of success.

Parents need to get actively involved in family therapy sessions and learn to support their recovering teen as they begin the healing process.

Love And Discipline

Teen rehabs must provide loving, but firm discipline. Many teens with substance abuse and addiction respond to their trials with poor behaviors and can lack respect for authority figures.

Teen rehab counselors understand why teen addicts act as they do and do not react emotionally to outbursts of inappropriate behavior, but neither are these inappropriate behaviors tolerated.

Teens coming out of rehab will have learned how to deal with authority in a constructive and healthy way, and be far more able to participate effectively in school, on the job and in life.

Teen Rehab Is Not A Vacation From School

A teen rehab must offer educational support to addicts in recovery.

Rehab is not a vacation from responsibilities, and since most teen substance abusers are challenged academically, rehab education offers them a chance to catch up.

Rehab schooling offers low student to teacher ratios, and students can get the kind of individual attention and tailored curricula they need to once again excel in the classroom.

Teens Sharing With Teens

Teens recover best with other teens. Group therapy gives a voice to teens feeling silenced. As teens share their pains and difficulties, there is comfort knowing they are not alone.

Working with a therapist also empowers teens to retake control over their lives and actions, and through intensive therapy, teens learn why they act and feel as they do, and how positive changes can be made.

Cognitive strategies work for all addicts in recovery, but help teen addicts especially to avoid relapse. Cognitive educational seminars give teens the tools they need to minimize relapse temptation in their lives, and even to avoid the kind of thinking that can get them into trouble.

Teens Respond Well When Given A Chance

Teens show remarkable resilience to the troubles of addiction, and when given professional and appropriate assistance, respond with great changes in behaviors and attitudes. Growing up is hard, teens are vulnerable, and sometimes they need a little help.

Once an addiction begins to manifest, problems rarely improve without help. Teens respond far better to treatment when they get help early. Waiting for too long before taking action only entrenches addiction, and increases the difficulties of treatment.

What To Expect

Successful adolescent treatment programs must not only address substance abuse, but help an adolescent find their identity, which is often neglected while using chemicals.

Many Teen Rehabs Include

  • Effective problem solving and social skills need to be learned in order to build self-esteem. Basic trust must be built or rebuilt. Often this is done through the use of physical exercise such as navigating ropes or falling backwards into the arms of a peer.
  • Verbal skills also need to be learned, such as how to ask for help. Basic feelings must be identified and a language of emotional communications must be established. Many substance-abusing teens cannot name three different feelings.
  • Coexisting mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) must be evaluated. Very often substance abuse masks these disorders and they only emerge in early recovery. Left untreated, they become triggers for relapse.

Wilderness Therapy Programs

Wilderness therapy is similar to summer camp and often lasts less than three months. Physical activity is very intense: teens live outdoors and pitch tents, gather firewood, make their food, and hike for long periods of the day.

Students participate in therapy such as group and individual counseling, journaling, stress reduction classes, and spiritual awakening through experiences of nature. The group should be small and led by counselors with good professional credentials.

Wilderness therapy “jump-starts” addiction recovery.

Follow-up studies of participants indicated that two years later, up to 95% believed the experience was crucial to their eventual recovery.

However, aftercare is very important, which may include outpatient therapy from home.

Aftercare Teen Rehab

The importance of a quality and accessible aftercare treatment cannot be overemphasized. It is ideal if the program is close to home.

If a teen is dependent upon a parent’s driving, or has a long commute, the likelihood of treatment being continued could be lost.

Once your teen leaves a therapeutic environment, it will be suggested they continue counseling sessions and get involved in a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Teens will learn how to replace former people, places and things with new peer groups. This is important because without peer group replacement, the return to substance-abusing friendships is sure to happen.

Many teens suffer relapses before they completely give up substance abuse. The good news is despite setbacks, teen rehab addiction treatment has become very sophisticated and has an excellent success rate for the majority of teens.

When teens are given the opportunity to conquer their problems in a treatment facility designed for teen treatment, teens respond very well.

And when that treatment combines the essential participation of the family with effective therapies; and one that treats adolescent developmental concerns as an integral aspect of the healing process, teens have a great opportunity to get their lives back on track.

Teen substance abusers can and do get better, and with the right help they can achieve the promise of their potential.

Don’t let an early addiction derail their lives, get them help, and get them better…they’ll thank you for it!

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