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Should Your Teen Try Adult or Teen Rehab? Experts Weigh In

By Neha Kashyap
How do you decide between adult or teen rehab programs? It depends on what your teen needs.

If you suspect your teen is struggling with a substance use disorder, you might want to consider sending them to a treatment facility. When it comes to choosing rehab for teens, it’s important to know how centers for adults that permit teens and centers that cater specifically to teens differ. That way you can decide which is best for your child based on their unique needs.

It can be difficult to catch substance use disorder in teens, as many teens confide in friends over family. However, there are some things you can watch out for.

Signs of addiction in teens

Signs your teen could be abusing drugs or alcohol include:

Physical symptoms of addiction include:

  • slurred or rapid speech
  • red eyes or dilated pupils
  • extreme behavioral changes

If your teen is showing signs of addiction, the next step is finding the right treatment process and facility for them.

Standards of treatment for teens

Teens may face emotional challenges as part of their adolescence, due to hormonal and brain changes. According to a recent poll by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), some issues teens are most concerned with include peer pressure, fitting in, sexual development, and issues with parents.

If your teen does have a substance use disorder, it's important to consider this unique developmental stage when deciding on a treatment that is right for them.

The National Institutes for Health’s (NIH) “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment” emphasizes the following:

  • Early intervention is crucial considering that drugs and alcohol could affect brain development in teens.
  • Treatment can work even if the teen does it unwillingly.
  • Treatment should be tailored to a teens’ unique needs.
  • It’s important to treat the addiction for an adequate amount of time and to follow up afterward.

Why teen rehab centers?

Teen rehab centers could provide your teen with a sense of community while focusing on their specific needs, according to the NIH. These rehab centers can tackle substance abuse as well as the complex issues that face teens in their adolescent years—things like school work, peer pressure, and their changing bodies.

“They can feel connected to people their own age who have more things in common and can more easily bond with during an often challenging transition,” Jason Levine, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Adult rehab for teens

Adult rehab centers could also address your teen's needs, but there are some important aspects to consider.

Adult rehab centers that permit teens could expose your teen to more mature subject matters, but could also introduce them to mentors to help guide them through treatment and recovery. Adults' attitudes towards treatment, since many of them attend voluntarily, could have a positive impact on more resistant teen patients.

“In general, the client attitude will be different [in adult rehab centers], since an adult has to choose to go to rehab they are generally more willing to put in the effort,” David Grammer, a Los Angeles-based family therapist, says.

Whether or not your teen enters adult rehab could also depend on what’s available in your area. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to get you started: 855-466-7204

Life After Treatment: General Information