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Teen Substance Use Disorder: Choosing a Treatment Program

Teen Substance Use Disorder: Choosing a Treatment Program


Your teen will need a complete evaluation to determine the level of substance use and the presence of other mental health or medical conditions.

If you need to place your teen in a treatment program, look for one that uses evidence-based practices to treat substance use. Cost may also be an important factor to consider. Be sure to ask how long treatment may last and how much it will cost. High price is not always a sign of the best care. Also find out what insurance plans are accepted, what they cover, and what kinds of payment plans the program offers.

A good program should include:

  • Counseling and support.

    The program should include group and individual counseling along with support and self-help groups. These groups need to be separate from adult groups. Counseling may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can help your teen learn coping skills to prevent future substance use.

  • Education.

    Treatment needs to include a way for your teen to continue their education. Doing even a small amount of schoolwork during treatment may help boost your teen's self-confidence.

  • Parental involvement.

    Most likely, family therapy will be part of the treatment. You need to provide support and encouragement for your teen both during and after the program.

  • Support for their interests.

    Treatment programs should provide time for your teen to pursue a hobby or interest. Having interests they can continue after treatment will help your teen have something healthy to do rather than use substances.

  • Special services.

    Special services such as mental health services, vocational (job) training, and counseling are important parts of treatment that need to be part of the program. If your teen has other conditions, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety disorder, these conditions should be treated during substance use treatment.

  • Urine drug screens.

    A treatment program should require that your teen not use substances during treatment. Random urine drug screens can be used to monitor teens during treatment and even in an aftercare program.

  • Relapse prevention.

    Relapse (returning to substance use) is common after treatment for substance use. The program should help your teen make a plan to deal with cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.

  • Aftercare.

    An aftercare program should keep your teen involved and around people who are staying sober while in recovery. This helps lower the chance that your teen will relapse.

Related Information


Current as of: March 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
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