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Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Finding the Right Treatment for Your Teen

Types of programs

There are several types of teen substance abuse treatment programs.

Inpatient programs

Inpatient programs are highly structured and closely supervised in a hospital or treatment center. The teen stays day and night during treatment, which normally lasts about 4 weeks. These programs usually have an aftercare program that provides support and encouragement.

  • The programs provide education and individual, family, and group counseling. They are often based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Another type of inpatient program is the therapeutic community, which is not based in a hospital. Teens do a series of tasks with constant feedback from peers. These programs may last up to 2 years. Some teens choose to stay and work in the program after treatment.
  • Wilderness challenge programs combine a wilderness experience and some form of treatment. The goal is to help troubled teens communicate better with their families, control their anger, and build healthy relationships. A variety of programs are available. Their quality varies greatly. They are expensive and tend to limit contact with parents. Talk with a health professional if you are considering sending your teen to one of these programs.

Outpatient programs

Outpatient programs range from very structured programs with psychotherapy and family therapy to drop-in centers.

  • These programs require that the teen spend 8 hours or more during the day at the facility, but the teen is home at night. Day treatment programs usually have the same features (individual, group, and family counseling) as inpatient programs. But day treatment normally costs less.
  • Less intensive outpatient programs are designed for young people who do not need as much time in day treatment or to be in an around-the-clock treatment center. Treatment includes one-on-one or group counseling and family therapy. Treatment in the teen's own community makes it easier for the family to be involved.

Whatever type of program you choose, it should consider teen developmental issues, such as peer pressure and the need to test limits. The treatment also needs to provide a way for your teen to continue his or her education. It may boost your teen's self-confidence and self-esteem if he or she can do even small academic tasks during treatment.

What to do if your teen relapses

Getting a teen to stop using alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs is only the first step. Substance use fills an emotional need. That need has to be found and satisfied in a healthy way for your teen to be able to stay off the substance.

Returning to substance use (having a relapse) after treatment is common. It's not considered a treatment failure. Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after treatment. Most often, teens need to go through treatment more than once and follow a long recovery process.

Your teen is less likely to relapse if:

  • The treatment program motivates him or her to stop using and to learn the skills to deal with drug cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.
  • Your teen can commit to being substance-free for 12 to 24 months.
  • Your teen has or finds a healthy hobby or interest.
  • Your teen gets treatment for other health problems he or she may have, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression or long-term depressed mood (dysthymia), post-traumatic stress disorder, or an anxiety disorder.
  • Your teen is involved in an aftercare program or case management.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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