Committed to Safety: Latest information on COVID-19 PrecautionsLearn More

On November 10, 2018, the Woolsey Fire destroyed The Canyon at Peace Park’s treatment facility. At this time, The Canyon at Peace Park is not accepting patients for any services. Click here to learn more about our closure or request medical records.

Teen Drug Rehab

In the past, most drug rehabilitation programs were for the needs of adults. While experts knew teens may experiment with drugs from time to time, most believed teens would not become addicts.

Now, experts know this is not the case. For example, the Monitoring the Future Survey found that 36.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana on a daily basis. This places these teens at high risk for addiction. Treatment for this addiction is important as therapies can allow the teen to shed the addiction before reaching adulthood.Therapies for adults often don’t work as effectively when used with teens. In other words, teens aren’t just small adults. Teen addicts need therapies that are specifically tailored to meet their own unique needs.

Special Needs, Special Opportunities

Teen Drug Treatment NeedsThe teen brain is like a beehive, always buzzing with activity. The brain is constantly building new connective tissues that bridge the right side and the left side together. New centers of the brain are waking up. Tissues break down and are then built back up again.

Slowly, the teen moves from impulsive behaviors to reasoned judgments. During this time of change, it can be hard for the teen to make the right decisions.As much as a teen may not like to admit it, the family has a deep and persistent role in their life. An adult might not have any connection to his or her parents. Instead, he may rely on a spouse or romantic partner for emotional support. A teen relies on his or her parents to provide guidance and unconditional love. In short, the family has a powerful role to play in helping a teen make the right decisions when it comes to addiction and behavior.

Since the family has such a strong pull on the adolescent’s life, family members are often heavily involved in the teen’s treatment program.

In some adult rehabilitation programs, addicts refrain from talking to friends or family members for a time while they focus on their healing. Studies suggest this approach is not effective with teens. An article states this best, “Considerable empirical support exists for the efficacy of family-based therapy in curtailing adolescent drug use and co-occurring behavior problems.”[1] In other words, experts know the family can help the teen recover, so they often need the family to participate as the teen begins to heal.

While the link between mental illness and addiction has been found in almost all age groups, the link in adolescence is particularly strong. It’s possible that the teens rely on drugs to help them deal with the symptoms of mental illness, and it’s also possible that the drug use causes certain types of substance abuse behaviors. Research is ongoing in this area.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that these mental illnesses tend to go hand in hand with teen drug use:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder

Most programs for teen addiction begin with a full assessment of the teen’s mental health. The teen might meet with a counselor on a private basis and answer questions, or the teen might take a series of tests to help uncover underlying issues. If problems are found, therapies are provided to help the teen deal with the mental illness as well as the addiction. The two issues are related, and they are both treated. This provides the best foundation for the teen’s ongoing health.

Finally, many drug addiction programs for adults provide medications to help assist with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. According to the NIDA, many of these medications haven’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in adolescents. Doctors may choose to provide these medications anyway, of course, but they may run a series of blood tests and physical tests first, just to make sure the teen is healthy before they provide medications in this off-label format.

Choosing a Setting

Drug addiction therapies are available in an inpatient setting where the teen lives in the facility.The teen receives supervision and support 24 hours a day.

Teens who have strong family support may also benefit from outpatient programs that allow them to live at home while they participate in therapy programs during the day. It can be difficult for families to choose the right program.Thankfully, this isn’t a choice most families have to make on their own. The teen’s doctor might suggest one therapy type over another, based on the teen’s overall health. The family’s insurance program might also provide guidance on what sorts of therapies will be covered and what sorts will not.

Counseling Types

Parents and Teen RehabFor teens in drug rehabilitation, the counselor provides guidance, care and support. The teen might meet the counselor in an inpatient program over the course of weeks (or even months). The teen could meet the counselor for the first time in the counselor’s office and then meet with that counselor several times for weeks or months. Counselors often use several types of therapy on teens. For example, some counselors use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.This form of treatment helps teens recognize when they’re most likely to use drugs, and then practice techniques they can use to defer those situations. Others use contingency management techniques, in which they provide the teen with prizes for clean urine samples.

Most counselors use a form of family therapy with teens. This therapy attempts to help a family build a strong relationship.Open communication is essential when family members are focused on helping the teen beat the addiction. The teen and the family members meet with the counselor, and they all work together as a group.

This form of counseling has been widely studied. In most cases, it’s been proven effective. A study states that adolescents who participated in family therapy were twice more likely to stay drug-free than teens who only participated in individual therapy.[2] It’s clear this form of therapy has the potential to create solid change.

Group Therapies

Teen Drug TherapyTeens are social creatures. They are profoundly influenced by the actions of their peers. For this reason, many counselors suggest that teens attend group meetings with other addicts. For this reason, 12-step meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have proven quite helpful for adults.However, there is reason to be cautious with teens in this setting. For example, a study found that these meetings were only helpful if the teen attended meetings that included other teens. When a teen was placed in a room full of adults, it tended to make the teen feel isolated.[3]

So you can find the right group therapy for the teen, consider these questions:

  • How old are the participants of this meeting?
  • What drug is this program designed to treat?
  • Is this based on 12-step principles?
  • Is there a counselor present?

After the teen attends a meeting, parents can also ask the teen about the experience. This is a good way to determine if the teen feels comfortable. If the teen expresses discomfort, it might be best to seek out a new group. Often, there are many meetings available in the community. Some teens may resist the religious aspect of 12-step programs. The teen must feel comfortable and engaged in the meetings. It is wise to choose a group that is a good fit to receive the most benefit.

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming to find a teen drug addiction recovery program. There are so many options available.There are so many things to keep in mind. One way to ease the burden is to reach out for help. At The Canyon, we provide an integrated program designed to meet the special needs of addicts of all ages. We are glad to provide you with information about our program. You can call now to talk with a counselor who is ready to help. Please call us today at 424-387-3118 to find out more.


[1]  Family-Based Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abuse: Knowns and Unknowns. Ozechowski, Timothy J.

[2] Treating Adolescent Drug Abuse: A Comparison Of Family Systems Therapy, Group Therapy, And Family Drug Education. Joanning, Harvey.

[3] The Effects of Age Composition of 12-Step Groups on Adolescent 12-Step Participation and Substance Use Outcome. Kelly, John F.