What Does Teen Chemical Dependency Treatment Entail?

Has your teen recently been diagnosed with a chemical dependence? Teen chemical dependency treatment is stressful and overwhelming time for many families. You might be afraid that your teen will never recover and will struggle with addiction for his or her whole life. You might worry that the treatment will stop your teen from finishing his or her education. You might also ruminate over the factors that have gotten your teen to this point: Are they struggling with a mental health condition in addition to the addiction, or are there perhaps family issues involved? Knowing what to expect can make the process easier on both you and your adolescent. Here is the information you need to know about how chemical dependence is treated.


Understanding Chemical Dependence

Chemical dependence is often called substance addiction. The way it often (but not always) develops is that first, the individual will begin using the substance occasionally. It might be that they are experimenting with their friends at parties or, as sometimes happens in the case of an opioid addiction, a doctor might prescribe a medication to control pain and at first, it’s taken as directed.


As time goes on, experimentation or proper use might turn into a tolerance, which means that more and more of the drug must be taken in order to achieve the same results (a high or, in the case of the prescription medication, pain relief). The issue becomes more problematic until the person is dependent on the substance. This means that they have strong cravings for it and that they begin to go through unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) withdrawal symptoms when it’s been too long since they last used the drug. This leads to one then needing teen chemical dependency treatment to recover and live a meaningful life.


Teen Chemical Dependency Treatment

For teens who have become chemically dependent on a substance, inpatient teen chemical dependency treatment is often recommended. This is intensive treatment and can last anywhere from a few days to several months or, in some cases, longer. One reason inpatient treatment is effective is that it removes the adolescent from any possibility of relapsing while in the treatment center so they can focus on recovery. Some of the methods used to treat chemical dependence in teens while in the treatment center include the following.



Detoxification is the process of removing the effects of the drugs from the body. In some cases, medication is used and in others, the person is simply observed and made more comfortable while they go through withdrawal. Sometimes this is done in a hospital and sometimes it’s done in the inpatient treatment center. Detoxification can be dangerous in some cases, so it’s important to have medical professionals on hand.


Individual Counseling

Many teens who become chemically dependent have an underlying issue that has caused or exacerbated their dependence. For example, they might have been attempting to self-medicate for depression or they might have trouble with impulse control due to ADHD or some other condition. During counseling sessions, they will learn ways to cope with difficulties that do not entail turning to alcohol or drugs. They’ll also be evaluated for a range of mental health conditions so those can be treated, too.


Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions are used during inpatient treatment to give each person a sounding board and support from their peers who are going through the same thing. These sessions are led by addiction specialists to keep the discussions productive and positive.


Family Counseling

It’s important for families to know how to support their loved one who is going through treatment for a substance addiction. In addition, the teen needs to be able to communicate openly with his or her family about what factors may have led to the dependence. Family counseling can be difficult, but it’s a necessary part of the recovery process and it will usually improve communication and relationships within the family.


Recreational Therapy

Many treatment centers offer therapies like art therapy or equine therapy for patients. These are simply additional ways in which the chemically dependent teen can get to know him- or herself better and find an activity that is soothing and healthy.


Support Groups

After the most intensive part of the treatment is winding down, teens in recovery from chemical dependence are encouraged to remain part of a support group. These can be overseen by the treatment center, facilitated by a mental health and addictions specialist in the local community, or be run by Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. There are a variety of choices available, depending on what works best for a particular teen. Organizations such as AA, NA, and local religious organizations sponsor free support groups for people of all ages in all different areas, so if your teen is traveling or going off to college in a new town, he or she can seek out a local, no-cost option for support.


Family Support

Family support is vital for the teen going through recovery from teen chemical dependency treatment. During family counseling sessions, you will learn how to better communicate with your teen about your feelings, and your teen will learn how to be more open about his or her feelings. In addition, you’ll learn what you can do to help with the recovery process and how you might be able to help prevent a relapse.


In addition to family therapy, it’s important that family members seek support for themselves that their teenager is not involved with. There are support groups that specialize in helping the family members of those with addictions (Al-Anon is one of them). You can also seek individual counseling to learn how to manage the anger, guilt, disappointment, and other negative feelings that you are going through. Couples might find couples’ counseling helpful, as a teen with a chemical dependence can put a big strain on a marriage.



Your teen’s addiction specialists will talk to you about his or her treatment plan. It will undoubtedly involve various types of therapies as described above. It might also include pharmaceutical therapy; it’s important to talk to the specialist about the pros and cons of all treatments offered. With good care and family support, your teen has every chance to overcome his or her addiction and go on to lead a full life.