Today, there are many different rehabilitation programs available for both adults and adolescents. Each teen drug rehab center comes with its own unique attributes and treatment style. Therefore, while there is a lot of help available, it may be difficult to decide which program is best for your teen. Here are some features to consider to help choose a drug rehab facility.
Article at a Glance:
- Parents must be able to distinguish whether a teen’s drug use is experimental or an addiction.
- There are inpatient and outpatient teen drug rehab programs available based on the teen’s mental health needs and level of addiction.
- Tour teen drug rehab facilities and ask the staff many questions before committing to a facility.
- Questions to ask include the level of family involvement, if the facility is accredited, how the teen’s education will be affected and how the program prepares teens for life after treatment.
Table of Contents
Is My Teen’s Drug Use Experimentation or Addiction?
Before even looking for a treatment facility, parents need to determine if their teen struggles with addiction or drug dependence, or if their drug use is experimental. It’s important for parents to realize that there is a difference between experimenting with drugs or alcohol and being addicted to these substances.
High school is a time when teens explore new levels of independence. Their newfound activities might include benign activities like learning to drive and staying up late but can also include harmful ones like experimental drug use.
The allure of the forbidden can be a big reason why many teens are curious about trying illegal drugs. However, just trying a substance does not automatically make someone addicted, and many teens who try drugs do not end up using them regularly. Treatment is more recommended if your teen has an addiction, not if they have tried drugs or alcohol once or twice.
Signs of Addiction
When a child is addicted to a substance, certain signs of abuse present themselves. Different types of substances can present different signs of abuse, so if you have a suspicion about the type of substance your child may be misusing, it’s helpful to research specifics about that substance.
Signs of teen drug and alcohol abuse to look out for include:
- Changes in physical appearance
- Borrowing or stealing money
- Spending time with different friends than usual
- Appetite changes
- Sleep habit changes
- Excessive secrecy
- A sudden drop in grades or academic performance
- Drug paraphernalia in their bedroom
Types of Teen Drug Rehab Programs
There are two main types of rehab for teens: inpatient and outpatient programs. The main difference between the two programs is whether patients stay at the facility full-time or just visit for treatment sessions.
Inpatient and outpatient can include many of the same therapies but, in general, there are more intensive types of treatments at an inpatient facility. The specific nature of the teenager’s addiction and other medical and mental health needs will help determine whether an inpatient or outpatient program would be best for them.
There are a number of benefits to inpatient rehab for teens. Also known as residential treatment programs, inpatient rehab involves full-time care. Teenage patients stay at the facility all day and overnight, which is especially helpful if they need to go through detox before beginning therapy.
During inpatient treatment, doctors will likely be on-hand 24 hours a day to provide medical assistance if they have serious withdrawal symptoms. An inpatient setting can also keep teens away from their peers and triggers that led them to use drugs in the first place.
Going to inpatient rehab can be frightening for both a teenager and their family. To the teen, it might feel like they are being punished, or that their family doesn’t want them around anymore. Fortunately, most inpatient centers allow parents and other family members to visit and participate in certain parts of treatment, like family therapy.
It is important, too, for parents to reassure their teen that they still love them and that the teen is receiving necessary medical help, not punishment.
Outpatient drug rehab for teens involves going to a clinic or facility for appointments during the day, but not staying overnight. Patients may participate in individual or group therapy, or some different forms of therapy designed specifically for teens. Parents and families may also come and be involved in some treatment activities, or receive counseling themselves, depending on the rehab facility’s offerings.
Unlike inpatient programs, outpatient programs often do not last for any specific length of time. Your teen can go to therapy for as long and as often as they need until they have recovered. An outpatient setting is good for teens who do not have a serious addiction, are at a lower risk of relapsing or who have already completed an inpatient program. When an inpatient program finishes, the facility often will continue providing support through an outpatient program.
Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Rehab Facility
It is always a good idea to tour a teen drug rehabilitation facility and speak with staff there before fully committing to it. Before you go to a rehab center, make a list of questions you want to ask its staff or directors. This list will help you make sure you get all the information you need to choose the right place for your teen.
A study on adolescent substance abuse treatment programs in the United States identified nine key features that an effective program should have:
- Assessment and treatment matching: the facility should customize a treatment plan specifically for your teen
- Comprehensive, integrated treatment approach: the program should address all aspects of your teen’s life
- Family involvement in treatment: programs have better outcomes when parents are involved in the treatment
- Developmentally appropriate program: the treatment should be tailored specifically for teenagers, not all ages
- Engaging and retaining teens in treatment: your teen should be able to build a trusting relationship with their therapists and be actively involved in their own treatment
- Qualified staff: therapists, doctors and other staff members should have specialized training in substance abuse and mental health therapy for teenagers
- Gender and cultural competence: the program should take into consideration your teen’s gender and cultural background
- Continuing care: the facility should create a plan for care after the program has ended to improve reintegration into society and to prevent relapse
- Treatment outcomes: the facility should keep track of its patients’ recoveries and relapses to ensure that its methods are effective
Unfortunately, many teen rehab centers do not meet all or even some of these criteria. Do your research to find out if a program will work well for your teen before you sign them up. To get you started, here are some important questions to ask a rehab facility when you visit.
- Is the Rehab Facility Accredited?
There are a few national accreditation organizations that oversee teen rehab facilities. Accredited rehab centers are more likely to be safe and provide high-quality, effective treatment. Check to see if a facility is accredited by one or more of these organizations:
- How Involved Are Families in Treatment?
Make sure to ask the staff at the facility whether or not they will communicate with you regularly, as some facilities will call parents weekly. It’s important to feel as if you have a say in your child’s recovery, and knowing what is happening can help alleviate any stress or confusion. Also, family involvement with teen rehab improves their treatment outcomes.
Many facilities also offer family counseling for parents, siblings and other family members affected by drug abuse. You can work with the therapists to learn how to support your teen when they come home.
- Is the Program for Teens Only?
It is important to find a rehab center that caters specifically to teens, as their treatment needs are different from the needs of adults. Often, teens are still growing and undergoing changes, including hormonal ones. Substance use also affects their developing brain differently than it does for adults.
A quality facility should have knowledge of this fact and be prepared to deal with any related issues. Such centers will provide teen-specific addiction counseling, and help them with mental health issues specific to their age. Any medical treatments that your teen needs should be provided by someone trained in treating adolescents.
- Will Treatment Affect My Teen’s Education?
High school is a critical time for a person’s education. This is the period in their life when they are honing skills that they will need for the workforce, and when they are deciding what career they will pursue or whether they will go to college. Substance abuse can have a serious negative impact on a teen’s academic performance, so they will need dedicated help to get back on track. While they are taking time out of school to attend rehab, it is essential that their educational needs are still met. Some centers offer classes on-site, while some teens may be able to attend rehab sessions after school.
- Does the Program Prepare Teens for Life After Treatment?
Some facilities provide aftercare options, meaning they have support groups and resources for those who have been released from the program. These may include training in professional or social skills to help them return to work or their peer group after being away for a long time. This can be helpful because it allows your teen to start returning to their normal routine while continuing to give attention to recovery. It also helps them prepare for future temptations to use drugs when they return home and to school, which is important for preventing a relapse. These are all key elements to a successful addiction recovery.
Brannigan, Rosalind; Schackman, Bruce R.; Falco, Mathea, et al. “The Quality of Highly Regarded Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Programs: Results of an In-depth National Survey.” JAMA Pediatrics, September 2004. Accessed June 22, 2019.
The Joint Commission. “What is Accreditation?” Accessed June 22, 2019.
CARF International. “Accreditation.” Accessed June 22, 2019.
Council on Accreditation. “Accreditation Overview.” Accessed June 22, 2019.
National Committee for Quality Assurance. “Health Plan Accreditation.” Accessed June 22, 2019.
Bertrand, K., et al. “Substance abuse treatment for adolescents: how are family factors related to substance use change?” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, January-March 2013. Accessed June 22, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol and Other Drug Use and Academic Achievement.” Accessed June 21, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer:The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.