Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

Rehab For Young Adults

The transition from childhood to adulthood can be a struggle. 

Some teenagers and young adults turn to drugs to cope with the pressure. One in eight young people used an illicit substance in 2020.4

Because brain development can last into one’s mid-twenties, teens and young adults who use drugs are at increased risk for:

  • Physical and mental illness
  • Diminished life outlook
  • Addiction

Read on to learn more about the issues of drug use by young people and various rehab options.

Advantages of Rehab for Young Adults

A program for young adults has many advantages. Typically it features staff that are familiar with the challenges young people face. 

Some of the advantages inpatient rehab provides for young adults include:

  • Helping to develop their social skills
  • Providing a support network of like-minded peers
  • Offering different types of therapy
  • A second chance at a better future
  • Eliminating distractions to allow maximum focus on recovery
  • Increased accountability

Teen Rehab Treatment Options

There are various rehab programs available for teens and young adults. 

These programs offer specialized therapies and unique amenities to address the challenges faced by young people. 

Some treatment options include:

  • Family systems therapy (FST) views people in the context of their family relations rather than as single individuals. It’s helpful in cases of family dysfunction.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses harmful thought patterns that lead to drug use. It treats a wide range of mental health conditions.
  • Contingency management therapy (CMT) is a type of behavioral therapy that emphasizes the use of cash prize incentives. It’s effective in cases where people have both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
  • Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) uses deep-breathing techniques from yoga and meditation to teach people how to manage their emotions. These techniques have been shown to be particularly effective with adolescents.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses various medications to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Experiential therapy (ET) is an unconventional approach which utilizes art, music, dance, writing, and even animals to treat addiction.

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6 Tips for Finding the Best Treatment for a Young Adult

When looking for at a treatment program for young adults, make sure that:

  1. It’s covered by insurance.
  2. The staff are well-trained.
  3. It offers therapies such as FST or CBT.
  4. The counselors have credentials (at least a bachelor’s degree).
  5. You consider the counselor’s area of expertise and if you are comfortable with them.
  6. It offers family counseling sessions. Research shows that having the support of one’s family is crucial to successful treatment outcomes.7

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Commonly Abused Drugs by Teens and Young Adults

The most commonly misused drugs for high school and college students are alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine. 


According to government statistics, alcohol is the most commonly misused drug by young adults. 

In 2020, 55.3% of 12th graders used alcohol, and 16.8% engaged in binge drinking.6, 4

For college students, rates of alcohol misuse among college students hit 53% in 2019.5 Almost 25% of college students engage in binge drinking, and 9% meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.1, 5


According to CDC data from last year, 23.6% of high school students reported using some form of tobacco or nicotine product.2

The popular image of nicotine for many people is cigarettes. But just 4.6% of high school students are regular smokers — a significant decline from its mid-90’s peak.2

While traditional cigarette use has declined, e-cigarettes are more popular. 

19.6% of high students have used e-cigarette products like vapes or juuls. But this represents a decline from 27.5% the year before.2

Among college students between 2017 and 2019, 22% reported using nicotine vape products in the last 30 days.9 


Among all illegal drugs used by young adults, marijuana is by far the most popular. After alcohol, it’s the second most popular drug overall. 

From 1991 to 2017, the number of high school students using marijuana on a daily basis increased from 0.6% to 6.9%.4 This may be due to shifting cultural attitudes as well as its growing availability due to legalization efforts.

Among young adults in college in 2019, daily marijuana usage stood at 6%.9 In 2020, that figure rose to 8%.8 That same year 44% reported using marijuana at one time — the highest percentage in three and a half decades.8

What Causes Addiction in Teens?

The three main risk factors for drug addiction among teenagers are:

1. Environment

People in this age range tend to be susceptible to peer pressure, using drugs as a way to fit in. 

Parents who are negligent or have more permissive attitudes towards drug use are also a factor. Academic pressures can also spur drug use.

2. Biology

Because their brains are still developing, teens who use drugs are at increased risk for developing an addiction. 

Additionally, certain genes predispose some people to addiction more than others.

3. Psychology 

Teens who have been physically or sexually abused are more likely to use drugs. Mental health disorders also raise the likelihood of drug misuse. 

Some teens are just curious and want to try new things.

Teen Drug Abuse Statistics 

Various U.S. government sources study drug use in adolescents. 

Here are some highlights from recent reports:

  • Fifty percent of teenagers have used drugs on at least one occasion.4
  • Eighty-six percent of teenagers know someone who uses drugs of some kind during school hours.4
  • 591,000 12 to 17 year-olds tried an illegal drug besides marijuana in the past month.4
  • About 21% of 8th graders have tried illegal drugs. For 12th graders, that number is 46.6%.4
  • As a percentage of the population, illicit drug use is highest in Vermont (14.6%).4
  • Teens in the District of Columbia are the most likely to experience alcohol use disorder.4

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Can a Parent Force Their Child to go to Rehab?

This depends on several factors, including the state and age of the child. 

Anyone 18 years old or older is considered a legal adult and thus cannot be compelled by their parents to accept treatment. 

In many states, there are legal protections for minors. 

While some states limit them to those 16 or older, many are less restrictive. For example, Illinois gives children as young as 12 the right to refuse treatment.

According to a 2015 study, at least 24 states give minors the right to refuse inpatient treatment. 15 states have no specific laws governing consent. Only 9 states give the authority to the parents.3

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Updated on February 6, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Binge Drinking.www.cdc.gov.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Youth and Tobacco Use.www.cdc.gov.
  3. Kerwin, MaryLouise E. “What Can Parents Do? A Review of State Laws Regarding Decision Making for Adolescent Drug Abuse and Mental Health Treatment.Journal of child & adolescent substance abuse vol. 24, no. 3, 2015, pp. 166-176.
  4. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. “Drug Use Among Youth: Facts & Statistics.drugabusestatistics.org.
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “College Drinking.www.niaaa.nih.gov.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.www.drugabuse.gov, 26 May 2021. 
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Multidimensional Family Therapy for Adolescent Drug Abuse Offers Broad, Lasting Benefits.archives.drugabuse.gov, 2010.
  8. National Institutes of Health. “Marijuana use at historic high among college-aged adults in 2020.www.nih.gov, 8 September 2021.
  9. Sherburne, Morgan. “Dramatic increases in vaping marijuana, nicotine among US college students, young adults.news.umich.edu, 15 September 2020.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Treatment Considerations for Youth and Young Adults with Serious Emotional Disturbances and Serious Mental Illnesses and Co-occurring Substance Use.store.samhsa.gov.
  11. University of Rochester Medical Center. “College Students and the Dangers of Binge Drinking.www.urmc.rochester.edu.

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