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Alcohol Rehab for Teens and Young Adults

The brain is still developing throughout the teen and young adult years and is highly impressionable. The prefrontal cortex (PFT), responsible for judgment, is one of the last parts of the brain to fully develop.1 Drinking alcohol while the brain is still developing places adolescents at a greater risk for long-term learning and memory problems as well as injuries from car crashes or falls do to an increase in risky behaviors.1 Seeking treatment for alcohol use can reduce your risk, and specialized teen treatment can help address the unique challenges teens face at this time in their lives.

Addiction Treatment for Teens

For many years, adolescents have received addiction treatment based on adult treatment models.2 Teens and young adults face unique biological changes, mental stresses, and social pressures, and as a result, they often do better when treated with those differences in mind.2

Teens brains are still developing, which means that they may be prone to risk-taking behaviors but are also primed for healing if given the proper tools.2 Teen recovery programs focus on the struggles of adolescence while engaging them in a way where they can use their rapidly increasing cognitive skills, expanding social experiences, while searching for sense of self in a positive way.2

Rehab for teens often includes:3

Teen Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Alcohol treatment can take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. Both treatment settings offer similar evidence-based treatments but differ in intensity level and medical oversight. At inpatient rehab, you live at the treatment center for the length of treatment and have access to 24-hour care and support. Inpatient treatment may be a good fit for teens who have more severe alcohol use disorders, have other medical or mental health disorders (co-occurring disorders), or who need distance from their usual environments.3,5

In contrast, at outpatient treatment, you attend set appointments during the week and return home after.3 Outpatient treatment can include partial hospitalization programs (PHP) or intensive outpatient programs (IOP).PHPs provide treatment most days of the week for 4 to 6 hours per day, and IOP programs vary according to need and provide treatment for a few days a week for at least 3 hours per day.3,5 Outpatient rehab settings work well for teens with supportive homes, less severe alcohol addiction, and few to no other medical or mental health disorders.3

If you’re at risk of life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms, your care team may suggest that you go through detox at the start of rehab.4 Medical detox can help teens safely withdraw from alcohol and get ready for further treatment.

Support Groups and Therapy for Teens

Whether teens attend inpatient or outpatient rehab, they will receive a combination of therapy techniques to address the underlying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that led to alcohol use in the first place. Some common therapies used in teen rehab include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT uses the notion that your thoughts contribute to your behaviors, including substance use. So, you can use coping skills to change your thought processes and behaviors, even if your setting does not change.6
  • Adolescent community reinforcement approach (A-CRA): A-CRA focuses on the belief that an adolescent’s environment (including people and relationships) contributes to their behaviors. The goal of A-CRA is to remove teens from negative or dangerous environments and place them in settings that encourage healthy lifestyles and behaviors.7
  • 12-step facilitation: This approach involves 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to reduce the risk of relapse (return to alcohol use after a period of not using).6
  • Family therapy: Family therapy aims to address any family risk factors that may have contributed to addiction. At least one parent or guardian is usually included, with the option to include other family members or friends as well.6
  • Group therapy: Therapy sessions that include others at different phases of recovery can offer helpful perspectives, encouragement, and other support as teens begin recovery.8

How to Choose a Teen Rehab Center

Finding a place for teen alcohol treatment may seem overwhelming. But there are a few things you can consider that may make it easier to find a good fit.

  • Inpatient versus outpatient: How often and how much do you drink? Do you need to leave a tempting environment? Would you and your family benefit from some space from one another? Do you have consistent transportation to attend outpatient treatment?
  • Location: Would it be better for you to be closer to home, or would greater separation be better? Is a rural environment preferred over a city center?
  • Co-occurring disorders: Do you need treatment for other mental health disorders or complex medical treatment?

Often, there are criteria at each rehab that help determine who would benefit from the types of programs they offer. Talking to your doctor or a mental health professional can also help you decide what you need.

How to Pay for Teenage Rehab Centers

Getting professional treatment for addiction is a vital part of recovery, and the cost should not be a barrier. Most insurance plans cover some form of addiction treatment, and many rehab centers offer payment plans and sliding scale fees. But if you don’t have insurance, you still have options. Many government-funded and non-profit programs offer free or low-cost treatment options.

How to Find Teenage Rehab Near Me

Regardless of where you live, there is likely teen alcohol treatment near you. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may want to talk to your parents/guardians about treatment. Then, your family doctor or mental health professional can help assess your needs and fit a treatment center to fit them. You (or your parents/guardians) can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online treatment finder.



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