Teen Drug Rehab: What You Need to Know

Having an addiction is like having an ongoing battle with yourself. There’s no winning unless you surrender. There’s no conquering the destructive pull of addiction unless you lay down your weapons. Perhaps that’s the reason for the way Alcoholic Anonymous participants begin their introductions. “Hi, I’m John, and I’m an alcoholic.” They admit that they are powerless to the alcohol. They admit to being helpless in the face of the addiction. They surrender.

Teen drug rehab is a way to pull back the fingers on that grip addiction has on you. It’s a way wriggle out of the suffocating grasp that the compulsion of drinking has on your life. You see, an addiction is the repeated activation of the brain’s reward system, which is the key to drug abuse cycle. You experience a high, or rush in the brain, which leads to ongoing physical and psychological cravings. These cravings get so strong that alcohol becomes the sole focus of your life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities.


Do You Have an Addiction?

Here are the criteria you need to be diagnosed with an addiction. If you have 2-3 criteria your addiction might be mild; 4-5 criteria indicate a moderate disorder; and 6 or more of the 11 criteria indicate a severe disorder.

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
  9. Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.


As you might imagine, entering a teen drug rehab facility isn’t an easy choice. You’re finally laying down your lies and your longing to get drunk. You’re finally saying no to those cravings and turning the other way. You’re turning away from the monstrous grip of addiction and instead of trying to fight it; you’re walking in a new direction – towards recovery.

That’s a big step! The process of recovery will require all of you. It requires emotional, psychological, and at times, even spiritual maturity. Being a young person in a teen drug rehab facility asks for your willingness to change, grow, and develop. It might further along your growth through adolescence into adulthood. Don’t be influenced by your peers; allow the process of recovery to be yours and make the choices that are right for you alone.

For instance, some teens, especially those in early recovery, might still feel identified with the glamour of using drugs. Although avoiding drugs is often a message that is taught to children and teens, adolescents can continue to hold drug use with a certain ideal. During the early stages of their drug rehab experiences, teens might share their stories of first time use, memorable experiences, or the relationships they have with friends who also use. This sort of story telling might influence you. Remember to stay true to yourself; free yourself from the grip of addiction by first surrendering and second by knowing and following what’s right for you. And you alone.


Behavioral Therapies Used in Teen Drug Rehab

Adolescents have unique needs when it comes to treatment for substance abuse addiction. Because their brains are still developing, the effect of drugs and alcohol on the brain may be different than the effect on the brain for adults. Furthermore, teens are in a special transitional life stage, teen drug rehab should tend to the distinct developmental needs of adolescents.

For instance, research has shown that treatment designed for adults, which is who many alcohol and drug treatment plans are aimed to treat, need to be modified to be effective for adolescents. The presence and participation of family members is a particularly important component for teen drug treatment. The National Institute of Health has pointed out the following behavioral therapies that have shown to be effective in teen drug rehab.


Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA)

A-CRA is a comprehensive approach to adolescent substance abuse. It involves the teen as well as his or her family and aims to support the adolescent’s recovery by increasing family, social, and educational positive reinforcers. An A-CRA therapist chooses certain skills deemed necessary for a teen’s treatment, such as problem-solving, coping, and communication skills and to encourage active participation in positive social and recreational activities. A-CRA skills training often involves role-playing, behavioral rehearsal, and weekly home visits over a period of 12 to 14 weeks. Weekly visits take place after a teen has been dismissed from residential drug treatment, using positive and negative reinforcement to shape behaviors.


Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

This form of therapy focuses on the antisocial behavior in teens who use alcohol and drugs. MST explores all facets of an adolescent’s life that contributes to the drug addiction, including the character traits of a teen, family dynamics, the attitudes towards drugs that a teen’s peers might have, and the environments at home, school, and in the neighborhood. MST has shown to significantly reduce adolescent drug use during treatment and for at least 6 months after treatment.


Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

MDFT looks at drug use by teens as a product of influences that an adolescent experiences via his or her family, peers, and community. Therapy involves developing necessary skills for ending the drug use as well as facilitating the successful move through adolescence. For instance, these life skills include developing decision-making, negotiation, and problem-solving skills. Adolescents also work on their vocational skills, communication skills, especially their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings during stressful situations.


Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

FFT is sometimes simply known as Family Therapy. It is a type of therapy that focuses on the systems and relationships within a family network. It aims to change the relationship within families in order to help them better manage the specific problems they might be facing. This form of therapy is used with a wide range of mental illnesses and is based on two principles:

  • Many mental illnesses are made worse by the dysfunctions present in families.
  • Close family members are often the supports that an individual suffering from mental illness has and are therefore extremely important in treatment.

Based on these principles, Family Focused Therapy aims to change the way family members interact, improve the functioning of the family as a unit, and improve the functioning of individuals within the family. Family Focused Therapy uses a variety of methods to help to improve the functioning of a family unit and its members


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT essentially aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. This successful form of therapy emphasizes the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and more importantly, it attempts to identify the way that certain thoughts contribute to the unique problems of an adolescent’s life. By changing the thought pattern, both feelings and behavior change, which can result in a transformed life.

The above therapies have been proven to be highly effective among teens. Because they have unique developmental needs, tending to them appropriately and including them in drug addiction treatment is an essential part to their growth and sobriety.


How to Find the Best Teen Drug Rehab Treatment Center

The following is a guideline for what parents can look for in a teen drug rehab treatment center.

Close to Home – A treatment center that is nearby allows for maximum family involvement in care, which is another key factor for treatment success. It is not uncommon for treatment centers to include family therapy in order to address the ways that family dynamics might be playing a role in the drug addiction.

Use of Evidenced Based Treatment Methods – The use of treatment that has been consistently effective and backed by psychological research is also known as evidence-based treatment. Such treatment methods include family-based therapy,  cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational enhancement therapy. Each of these treatment methods have been used with adolescents with high success rates.

Use of Psychological Evaluations – The use of assessments or psychological evaluations can determine whether there’s another mental illness like depression underlying the drug disorder. About half of all teens who have drug addictions also have an additional psychiatric condition. When the psychological disorder is left unaddressed, it can undermine drug treatment, especially if use of drugs or alcohol was a means to self treat the psychological illness. Furthermore, the use of assessments can help determine the necessary level of care for teens. In most cases, beginning with the least intensive treatment is best. However, depending on the adolescent’s needs, a higher level of care may be needed.

For Teens Only – It’s essential to find a program designed for teens only. Adolescents and adults have different psychological needs and when they are mixed, those needs will rarely get adequately met. In an environment in which emotional and psychological needs are often exposed, having older adults as clients in the same treatment center can pose safety concerns. And for teens, this might be a deterrent to opening up emotionally.  Also, drug treatment center staff may not be skilled at meeting the unique needs of teens at a facility for both adults and adolescents. Furthermore, it’s important that younger teens with milder problems are not placed in the same treatment center with older adolescents who have more severe addiction concerns.

It’s important that parents become informed consumers when choosing the right teen drug rehab treatment center for their child. It’s important to get advice from mental health professionals, from other parents, and even from other teens, if possible, who have attended treatment centers in the past. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the type of service, the admission process, how the facility assesses treatment outcomes, and how much a family can be involved in a teen’s treatment.

Finding the right teen drug rehab treatment can be difficult, but with enough information, parents can be equipped to make the right decision for their teen.