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Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 16, 2024

Table of Contents

The most effective substance abuse treatment for adolescents utilizes a personalized array of evidence-based therapies.

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That said, many teens successfully engage with addiction treatment in a regular drug or alcohol rehab rather than a dedicated adolescent addiction treatment center.

Whether a teen opts for regular rehab or age-specific rehab, it is vital that the particular needs of this demographic are addressed in any treatment plan. The backdrop to treatment is less important than the tailored nature of the treatment plan.

Whether you are a teen struggling with addiction or a concerned parent, the more you discover about adolescent drug treatment, the stronger your chances of finding the most appropriate treatment program.

Teens and Addiction

Oftentimes, it can be challenging getting a teen to admit they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. It can be even more demanding to encourage them to engage in outpatient rehab treatment

You first need to establish that your teen’s shifting moods are not a normal part of growing up. If pronounced mood swings are accompanied by the following signs, it could be time to initiate a conversation about substance abuse:

  • Reddened eyes
  • Diminished interest in appearance
  • Drop in personal hygiene
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Outbursts of anger or aggression
  • Reduced interest in hobbies and activities
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Socializing with new friends
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Scabs or bruises on arms

Teens abusing alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs often suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions, including:

  • ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders like major depressive disorder

In the case of dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder, the most effective approach to treatment involves simultaneously treating both conditions, whether at an inpatient or outpatient teen rehab.

Statistics for Adolescent Substance Abuse

Each year, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) conducts the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The most current survey (NSDUH 2020) shows that 1.2 million teens have substance use disorder

and 700,000 have alcohol use disorder. The same data shows that only 100,000 teens engaged with any form of addiction treatment. As with adults, less than 10% of those with addictions connect with the help they need.

Alcohol abuse is commonplace among teens. NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reported in 2018 that 58% of teens had consumed alcohol before the senior year of high school.

Early intervention is vital due to the manifold problems triggered by unhealthy patterns of illicit alcohol consumption among teens. SAMHSA data shows that:

  • Teens who abuse alcohol often engage in dangerous behaviors like unprotected sex or driving under the influence).
  • Abusing alcohol as a teen can trigger serious long-term health conditions.
  • Binge drinking begins in adolescents as young as 12, leading to an increased risk of potentially fatal alcohol poisoning.
  • Teens who abuse alcohol are at heightened risk of later developing alcohol use disorder.
  • Alcohol abuse can impair teen brain development and cause problems with cognition.

NIDA reports from 2018 show that 43% of college students use marijuana. This trend analysis of U.S. federal health statistics shows that the number of teens in the U.S. smoking marijuana has increased by a factor of 10 from 1991 to 2017.

OASH (the Office of Population Affairs) reports the following data concerning teen marijuana use in the United States:

  • 23% of 12th-graders used marijuana during the previous month.
  • 14% of 10th-graders used marijuana during the previous month.
  • 5% of 8th-graders used marijuana during the previous month.

Drug abuse is also prevalent among college students. A 2018 NIDA survey indicates that college students aged 19 to 22 used the following substances:

  • 16% of college students used vapes containing nicotine.
  • 43% of college students used marijuana, representing a 7% increase over the past 5 years.
  • 15% of college students reported abusing Adderall.
  • 28% of college students reported binge drinking.
  • There has been a slight reduction in the abuse of prescription opioids among college students.

Types of Addiction Recovery for Teens

Teens looking to engage with rehab for addiction and/or mental health conditions have the following options: 

  • Inpatient teen rehab
  • Outpatient teen rehab 

Both forms of treatment offer access to the same therapies. Inpatient rehab involves staying at the residential treatment facility for 30 to 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows you to engage with the same treatment, returning to the family home between therapy sessions. 

Many teens with severe substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions find inpatient rehab following medical detox is the most effective path to recovery. 

Studies suggest that teens find it easier to stop using addictive substances than adults. Research shows that young adults are also less likely to experience adverse withdrawal symptoms during drug or alcohol detox.

What to Expect and How to Prepare

All the best teen substance abuse treatment centers deliver a personalized array of psychosocial and behavioral interventions, such as:

  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy)
  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • MI (motivational interviewing)
  • CM (contingency management)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

Engaging with the right array of therapies can help teens to:

  • Manage cravings more effectively
  • Learn sober living skills
  • Make more positive lifestyle choices
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships

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Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

Adolescents and teens are welcome to engage with any of our treatment programs here at Renaissance Recovery Center. We specialize in the outpatient treatment of the following conditions:

  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  • Alcoholism (alcohol use disorder)
  • Mental health disorders
  • Dual diagnosis (addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder)

Our outpatient programs vary in terms of time commitment. A traditional outpatient program (OP) involves a few hours of therapy each week. For those with more severe addictions or mental health conditions, we also offer more intensive programming with IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs).

Evidence-backed therapies have been proven effective in clinical trials and peer-reviewed studies. Here at Renaissance, the following therapies form the backbone of all treatment programs:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Family therapy

At Renaissance, you can supplement the above research-backed treatments with a variety of holistic therapies for a whole-body route to recovery.

You will step down to a less intensive form of therapy or transition back into daily living with a relapse management strategy and aftercare plan in place, maximizing your chances on ongoing sobriety. You’ll learn to appreciate that recovery is a process rather than a single event like detox or discharge.

Get started today and face your problems head-on with help from our California or Florida rehab. Reach out to admissions at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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