Addiction treatment for teenagers

Teens require specific types of addiction treatment. Learn more about teenagers and successful addiction treatment models here.

minute read

Experimenting with drugs and alcohol during the teenage years isn’t all that uncommon. However, when experimental and casual use turns to abuse or addiction, real problems start. Teenage addiction affects not only the teenagers themselves, but it also has a huge impact on their families.

What kinds of addiction treatment are available to teenagers? What works and what are some barriers to treatment? We review here. Then, we invite your questions about addiction treatment for teens at the end.

Teenagers and addiction treatment

It’s important to treat teenage addiction early, as it can lead to much more serious problems down the road if left untreated. But when it comes to teenagers and addiction treatment, it’s not always as straightforward as addiction treatment for other populations. Teenagers are in a different stage in their lives, one which is often more confusing and difficult at times.

Some of the key components of a teenage addiction treatment program include:

  •     Behavior therapy
  •     Family involvement
  •     Healthcare services
  •     Home visits
  •     Peer to peer support
  •     Psychiatric assessments and treatment
  •     Positive reinforcement, such as rewards and incentives
  •     Recreational activities
  •     Social interaction

Teenage drug addiction treatment

Although teenage drug addiction treatment is different than traditional adult addiction treatment, it does involve a few basic steps. These include an assessment, detox, treatment, and aftercare.

STEP1: Assessment of teen addiction

Before someone can go into a teenage drug addiction treatment program, they must first undergo a screening for a substance abuse disorder and assessed by an addiction specialist. Specialists include medical doctors, psychiatrists, and licensed clinical psychologists. During the assessment, a teenager will need to answer several questions about his or her drug use. An addiction specialist will then usually diagnose a teenager with a drug dependence based on the answers to these questions. An addiction treatment care plan will also usually be created at this time.

STEP: Drug or alcohol detox (when necessary)

Once an addicted person stops taking drugs, withdrawal symptoms will usually start within several hours to a couple days. These symptoms vary, depending on the drug, but they are often very uncomfortable and may even be dangerous. Medical supervision is usually recommended during this detox period. While in detox, medical professionals can help alleviate some of these symptoms and ensure that the detox process goes smoothly.

STEP 3: Psychological and pharmacological treatment

Drug or alcohol addiction treatment for young adults often involves several mental and emotional issues. Individual and group therapy addresses these issues and is one of the most important aspects of treatment. Family counseling is also a very prominent during teenage addiction treatment. Family systems often operate in dysfunction and changes need to occur in order to become healthy and stable again. Some teenagers may also need medications, such as opiate replacement therapy, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications during treatment as well.

STEP 4: Aftercare

The period of time following addiction treatment is vital. After a teenager completes an addiction treatment program, he or she will often need to continue with an aftercare program. Aftercare may be residential or outpatient, but usually involves at least weekly individual, group, and family therapy sessions. Addiction treatment aftercare can last several weeks or even several years after the initial treatment.

Teenage addiction treatment barriers

There may be a number of obstacles that a teenager must overcome before being able to enroll in a treatment program. These obstacles must be overcome in order to successfully complete an addiction treatment program. Some of the most common barriers to teenage addiction treatment include:

  • Availability of drugs or alcohol
  • Lack of teenage specific addiction treatment programs
  • Peer pressure
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Unhealthy family situations
  • Unwillingness to admit to having a problem

Addicted teenagers

Addicted teenagers and their loved ones have a number of options when they need help with their drug or alcohol problems. So where can addicted teens go for help?

  1. Most schools encourage all of their students to speak up if they or someone they know may be suffering from a substance abuse problem. Teenagers can usually turn to their guidance counselor or any other school official.
  2. Family doctors are also great people to turn to, since they can usually make a diagnosis and refer addicted teenagers to an addiction treatment facility.
  3. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has a substance abuse treatment facility locator on their website at To use this locator, enter your location and filter the search results to facilities that offer services for teenagers.

Teenage addiction questions

Battling a teenage addiction is a frightening and stressful time for everyone. First you have to uncover if your teenager is abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana or illicit drugs, and then face the reality and do what’s best. It’s only natural to have concerns and questions about teenage addiction treatment and teenage addiction in general. Fortunately, you and your family have several options if you need help.

We’re also here to help; simply leave any of your questions or concerns in the comments section below, and we’ll respond as soon as possible.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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