Adolescents have different treatment needs than older substance abusers. In addition to issues involving addiction and withdrawal, these young people may need help with education, co-occurring mental health conditions, family life, and more.
Experimenting with Drug and Alcohol
Some levels of experimentation and risk-taking behavior are expected at this age, as the prefrontal cortex and other regions of the brain involved in impulse control, willpower, and healthy decision-making are not fully developed.1
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2018, reported that 58.5% of teens, by their senior year in high school, had consumed alcohol and 47% had use illicit drugs. Drug abuse is also seen in college students in a 2018 survey from NIDA, showed that young adults ages 19-22 used the following substances:2
- Marijuana use was about 43% in collage students, which is approximately a 7% increase over 5-years.
- Vaping with nicotine products were used 15.5% for college students and 12.5% for non-collages adults.
- Drug use varied on the type of substance:
- Prescription opioid use among college students dropped to 2.7% and among non-college adults dropped to 3.2% since 2013.
- Adderall abuse occurred in 14.6% among college men and 8.8% among college women; in non-college men 5.3% and non-college women 10.1%.
- Binge drinking occurred to 28% among college students and 25% among non-college adults.
Young adults may have different treatment needs than adults, and many in this population may not seek treatment on their own. Secrecy about substance abuse and denial may be common reactions in young adult and adolescents with an addiction. Often treatment may initially be sought for them by their parents or guardians. Age-specific and specialty programs catering to young adults may be beneficial in reducing problematic drug or alcohol usage as well as enhancing addiction recovery.
Abusing drugs or alcohol regularly before the brain is completely formed can increase the odds of becoming addicted to these substances.3
Research-Based Treatment Models
Methods that have been scientifically tested and have evidence to support their usage are often called research-based or evidence-based treatments. These treatment facilities combine scientific evidence and knowledge from personal experiences to create programs that work for their patients.
While many of the same treatment models that are used for adults may be used during drug rehab for a teenager or young adult, some of the specifics of the program may differ to address the unique circumstances related to age and life experiences of a teen or young adult.
Teens and young adults are less likely than adults to experience withdrawal symptoms and they office have less difficultly to stop using substances.4
Young adults with a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, may try to self-medicate, which can lead to dependence and addiction to a substance. In these cases patients are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Treatment are often integrated so that medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers can all work together towards recovery and healing the entire patient.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), helps patients identify negative thoughts and behaviors which often lead to addiction. Patients will attend group and individual therapy sessions in an attempt to better understand how social, personal, and environmental triggers may lead to substance abuse, and how negative and self-destructive behaviors and thoughts can be transformed into more positive and healthy ones.
Motivational Techniques and MethodsMotivational Interviewing (MI) helps patients realize the need for change. Young people may struggle with personal identity. By helping individuals to learn to accept that their feelings are valid, and learn how to positively impact and modify them, adolescents and young adults may gain the motivation needed to stop engaging in risky and self-harming behaviors.
How Can American Addiction Centers Help?
American Addiction Centers (AAC) does offer treatment options for young adults. Oxford Treatment Center accepts young adults and offers specialized and tailored treatment options that relate to the life situations younger patients may currently be experiencing. Programs tailored for young adults include:
- Active Learning: experiential therapies including art, music, ropes course, and equine therapy.
- Wilderness Therapy: helping patients address negative behaviors and learning about personal responsibilities while exploring the outdoors.
- Responsibility Practice: taking on responsibilities such as caring for equine-therapy horse.
Call to learn more about treatment options and steps to take to being treatment for you or your loved one that has an addiction at AAC. In addition to learning more about our services and our 90-day promise; guaranteeing the success of sobriety after treatment.
Additional Resources on Adolescents & Addiction
Community, Family, and Peer Support
There are many moments in a young adults life that are stressful, such as starting at a new school, entering college, moving out of the family home for the first time, and starting a job, which could lead to substance abuse.5 In addition, childhood trauma may increase the risks that a teen or young adult will abuse drugs or alcohol, possibly as a form of escape.6
After rehab it is important that patients are surrounded by support. Supportive environments can positively impact recovery for teenagers and young adults.7 Teens and young adults with the support of a caregivers, such as parents or legal guardians, who are involved in recovery, are more likely to live a life of sobriety, than those who don’t have support.8
Family therapy sessions and family-based approaches encourage positive changes in a family’s dynamic in order to support recovery for a teen or young adult.9
Guides for Families & Addiction
Self-Help and Support
Substance abuse and addiction impact entire families, and family-based approaches may improve overall quality of life and enhance recovery. Peer support, or 12-Step programs, may also be beneficial during rehab and recovery. These groups can provide a sympathetic and supportive peer network that is dedicated to abstinence and preventing relapse.
With the support of family, peers, and healthcare professionals, tailored treatment plans for adolescent individuals, and continued support after rehab, patients can achieve a life of sobriety.
- Xavier, N., Van Der Linden, M., & Bechara, A. (2006). The Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Decision-making, Impulse Control, and Loss of Willpower to Resist Drugs.Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(5), 30–41.
- Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2018. (2019, September 13).
- Biology of Addiction: Drugs and Alcohol Can Hijack Your Brain. (2017, September 8).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
- Elizabeth B. Robertson, Susan L. David, Suman A. Rao. (2003). Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders. National Institutes of Health.
- Khoury, L., Tang, Y. L., Bradley, B., Cubells, J. F., & Ressler, K. J. (2010). Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population. Depression and anxiety, 27(12), 1077–1086.
- Jedrzejczak, Marian. (2005). Family and environmental factors of drug addiction amount young recruits. Military Medicine, 107 (8), 688-690.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2008). Engaging Adolescents in Treatment.
- S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004). Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Rockville, MD.