3 Main Differences Between Teenage Drug Rehab and Adult Drug Rehab

Maturity is when your world opens up and you realize that you are not the center of it.”

– M.J. Croan, Scottish writer

Addiction doesn’t do sexism, ageism, political bias, skin color, or anything else. It doesn’t need to, and that’s not what it’s about anyway. Addiction is all about inclusion. You, me, the people who live in our neighborhood, or those who live thousands of miles away in far off countries. It really doesn’t care who you are. Everyone is considered fair game.

For addiction, there is zero difference between teenagers and adults. Age really is just a number, right? As long as you have a desire to try and make your life a little more fun, or a little more bearable, or even a little more different, and you possess a brain with a natural reward system for addicted substances to affect (and, ultimately, to mess with), you’re susceptible.

There really is no reason why children and teenagers who experiment with alcohol or drugs (or both) can’t fall victim to addiction’s powerful control in just the same way as adults, and, sadly, they often do.

Did you know that, according to recent U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services surveys, nearly 60% of 12th graders have already tried alcohol, and 6% drove after drinking? Or 11% of high school students reported misusing powerful prescription medications in the past year, such as OxyContin or Adderall?

However, when it comes to treating those teenagers who are either suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD), the addiction treatment programs need to reflect a number of significant and huge differences between teenagers and adults, such as:

  • The developing adolescent brain (on average, human brains do not fully mature until around 25 years of age)
  • The adolescent’s dependency on their parents or guardians, and
  • The reasons behind the substance, eg. teenagers often engage in drug and alcohol use because of boredom, curiosity, ignorance, peer pressure, and even because they’re simply copying their parents’ behavior

So taking these fundamental differences into account, what exactly distinguishes teenage addiction rehab from adult addiction rehab? Here are your “3 Main Differences Between Teenage Drug Rehab & Adult Drug Rehab.”

1. Family Support

The importance of family support during addiction treatment is considered extremely beneficial for anyone recovering from severe substance abuse. However, when it comes to such treatment for teenagers, it is considered essential. The process of recovery from substance addiction doesn’t simply end when your teenager’s treatment program ends – it continues, and continues, and this therapeutic need for ongoing support comes from no better place than within the family home.

Teenagers rely immensely on their parents and guardians – practically, physically, emotionally, and let’s not forget… legally. Because of this huge reliance, making the family an integral part of any ongoing support for the recovering teenager significantly increases the likelihood of a teenager’s clean and sober future.

2. The Adolescent Brain

Even after your teenager finally hits a couple of decades of living (and so is no longer a “teenager”), their brains still have yet to reach maturity. In fact, the prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain that controls our impulsive behavior – is still developing after 20 years, and actually doesn’t mature until we are around 25 years old.

Addiction treatment specialists allow for this by presenting information during a rehab program in a different way to that given to adults. They have found that emotional reasoning works better than logical reasoning in teenage rehab programs.

3. Outpatient Programs Designed for Teenagers

It wasn’t so long ago that teenagers in dire need of addiction treatment were simply housed together in the same residential rehab center or were given the same outpatient program as their adult counterparts. However, with advances in the fields of neuropsychology and substance abuse treatment in general, there are now many more rehab centers and outpatient programs, including specialized adolescent day treatment programs, capable of providing the appropriate programs and care for teenagers.

Furthermore, many parents of addicted teenagers prefer the outpatient option, for the following reasons:

  • Residential rehab can be viewed as a punishment, coupled with confinement, by teenagers
  • Importantly, intensive outpatient rehab programs allow teens to stay at home, surrounded and supported by their family, and, equally importantly
  • Intensive outpatient rehab programs also allow teens to continue their education (with minimal disruption, if any)

If you are choosing a teenage drug and alcohol treatment program for your son or daughter, it is important to remember the information and advice given here. The “3 Main Differences Between Teenage Drug Rehab & Adult Drug Rehab” are:

  • The need for ongoing family support
  • The continued development of the adolescent brain, and
  • The specialized teenage outpatient programs available, allowing for home-stay and continued education

Good luck to you and yours.