Do Teens Need Special Drug Rehab Programs

Unfortunately, Greater Boston leads the nation in underage drinking and drug use. While this could be largely attributed to the large collection of major universities and colleges in the area, it can also, in part be down to a generations-old normalization of alcohol and drug use, which is sometimes seen as a normal rite of passage for teens and young adults.

Unfortunately, about 9 in 10 adults with a serious substance use disorder (SUD) started in their teens. The experience of Boston rehabilitation centers also shows that these cases generally have a lower chance of positive outcomes compared to ones where the person started the habit later in life.

The reason for this is likely down to the fact that adolescent brains are still “plastic” and impressionable. Any brain pathways formed at this stage — including those related to drug and alcohol use — are likely to be well-entrenched for the rest of one’s life, requiring extensive therapy to address later on.

This means that if you suspect that your teen has a drug or alcohol problem, it’s extremely important that you find help for them immediately. 

Why you should choose a rehab program for teens

Unfortunately, not all rehabs can adequately address the very special needs of young people. That doesn’t keep many of them from taking your money regardless. Here’s why you should take some time to select an age-appropriate rehab program for your teen.

1.) Young people require a different psychiatric approach

Child and adolescent psychiatry is now universally considered to be an entirely different specialization within general psychiatry. This is an especially important point as psychiatric interventions are a critical part of mainstream SUD treatment. 

Therapists who are not specifically trained in handling issues relevant to young people will find it a challenge to provide your teen with adequate treatment. This may lead them to unintentionally use inappropriate approaches, which can lead to poor outcomes.

This is something that is directly supported by data. The National Institutes of Health released a study that showed adolescent-specific rehab programs had higher success rates. If you want to make sure that your teen receives adequate care, you’ll want to ensure that the program you enroll them in employs clinicians who specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry or psychology.

2.) Teens respond better when among peers

Most rehab programs include some kind of group therapy, partly to prevent feelings of isolation that often accompany having an SUD and also so that patients could draw inspiration from each other’s recovery journey. Group therapy can, therefore, be less effective if people within the group have a hard time relating to each other. 

Older adults can often forget how different their lives were, as teens. At the same time, younger people can have problems understanding the more experienced perspectives of adults. Putting people who cannot relate well with each other within the same groups, particularly during the early part of rehab, can lead all involved to be less interested in the process. 

If you want your teen to have a better shot at recovery, their group therapy sessions need to be with other young people in their age group. This will can help lessen feelings of isolation during recovery and may allow your teen to draw strength from their peer’s successes.

3.) Clinicians need to earn your child’s trust

As you will doubtlessly have realized, raising a child can be extremely challenging, which is all the more surprising considering that we’ve all been children ourselves at one point. 

The fact is, relating to young people is something older adults need training for. The clinicians at regular drug rehabs may be trained for a wide range of scenarios, but most of them are not necessarily prepared to deal with younger people.

As a result, teens entered into regular rehab programs may often find it hard to trust their therapists. This can lead to a catastrophic failure of the treatment process, as your child may simply tell unsuspecting clinicians things they want to hear, rather than the truth, which is necessary for progress and recovery.

Programs that are specially designed for teens and children will hire clinicians and therapists specially trained to understand the specific needs and concerns of children. Because they are more aware of how your teen might react to certain situations, they are in a better position to earn your teen’s trust. And this trust, at the end of the day, will help improve the odds of a long-term outcome for your child. 


If you have to make the difficult decision to send your child to rehab, you need to make sure that they enter a program that’s specifically designed to meet their needs. These programs are far more likely to produce good outcomes for your child, which may prevent them from developing more serious and difficult-to-treat SUDs later in life. Good luck, and be well!