Updated on November 23, 2023
5 min read

Residential Treatment Centers for Youth & Teens

What is Residential Treatment for Youth and Teens? 

Adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years old) are particularly vulnerable to drug and alcohol use. 

They have different developmental needs. When it comes to substance use, they also have higher rates of dual diagnosis, binge drinking, and opportunities to use.1

Adolescent substance use leads to negative consequences, including:1, 2, 3

  • Developmental problems (especially in the brain)
  • Health problems (like heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders)
  • School problems
  • Social and family troubles 
  • Overdose
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Risky behaviors (like driving under the influence and unprotected sex)
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Likelihood of developing substance use disorder (SUD) later in life

What’s Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment or inpatient rehabilitation can benefit teens struggling with alcohol or drug use. It involves:8, 9

  • Living in the residential treatment center
  • Rigid schedule
  • Highly structured environment
  • 24-hour services, including medications, withdrawal management, recovery, and relapse prevention
  • Treatment team consisting of doctors, addiction specialists, counselors, social workers, and clinical staff

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What Conditions Does Residential Treatment Treat?

Five substances accounted for 96% of treatment admissions from 2006 and 2016. Residential treatment accounted for 16% of these admissions.12

These five substances are:

  • Alcohol: In the US, it’s illegal for people under 21 years old to drink alcohol. Heavy, chronic drinkers may develop alcohol tolerance and withdrawal. 
  • Opioids: This is a group of drugs that includes heroin as well as misused and abused prescription drugs (like oxycodone and fentanyl).
  • Marijuana: This psychoactive drug produces a “high” feeling. Some states allow recreational or medically-indicated marijuana use.
  • Cocaine: Addiction to this stimulant commonly affects Americans of different ages. This drug rewires the brain with continued use. 
  • Methamphetamine: This is also a stimulant. Like all drug addictions, meth addiction is difficult to recover from. But it’s possible. 

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How Effective is Residential Treatment?

Changing negative behaviors is more successful in structured environments.13 A residential treatment center offers a safe healing space that prevents access to substances, bad influences, and triggering situations. 

In one study, a survey of patients who had undergone inpatient treatment showed substantial improvements in abstinence from opiates, psychostimulants, and benzodiazepines. Longer treatment stays were indicative of more successful abstinence.14

In another study, outpatient heroin treatment showed a 35% completion rate while residential programs had a completion rate of 65%.15

Here are some reasons behind residential treatment’s effectiveness: 

  • Highly structured: The environment and strict schedule can push teens to focus on recovery.
  • Supportive environment: Staff members are present to monitor and supervise residents so they aren’t alone during addiction recovery. 
  • Medical and mental health care: Health professionals are available to address severe withdrawal cases, mental health issues, and other complications. 
  • Safe housing: Residential treatments are drug- and alcohol-free environments that allow people to safely heal from addiction. 
  • A broad range of services: Residential treatment usually focuses on many aspects of addiction treatment, ranging from detox to aftercare. 

How Much Does Residential Treatment for Youth Cost?

It varies. Costs can range from $6,000 to $20,000 for a 30-day residential treatment program. More extended programs may cost more, sometimes ranging from $12,000 to $60,000.

Other factors also impact the cost of rehab. These factors include: 

  • Location of the facility
  • Size of the program
  • Types of treatment services offered
  • Amenities
  • Length of treatment

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How to Know if Your Child Needs Residential Treatment

Consider sending your child to residential treatment if they: 

  • Experience repeated relapses
  • Are not responding well to outpatient treatment
  • Need protection from bad influences (family, friends, or environmental/social)
  • Need to avoid situations that may trigger substance use
  • Have dual diagnosis (having both mental disorder and substance use problem)10
  • Have high overdose risk
  • Endanger themselves (like suicidal thoughts, violence, or driving under the influence) 

Talking to your Child About Rehab

Sending a child to rehab can be challenging for both the child and their caregivers. The child might feel unwanted or punished. They are likely to resist and resent their parents. 

Intervention is an intense yet delicate process for encouraging a person to seek professional help. During an intervention:

  • Be sensitive
  • Carefully choose the words you use when discussing substance abuse
  • Focus on the positive aspects of seeking treatment
  • Don’t blame

Some children do not want to enter rehab, and this can complicate recovery. Certain states don’t allow involuntary commitment as this violates children’s rights, even in cases where medical treatment is necessary. Involuntary commitment is possible, though, in 37 states. Parents need to comply with their state’s specific requirements.11

Adolescence and Substance Use

Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are the most common substances adolescents use.2

Over 40% of youth in the U.S. have tried illicit drugs at least once. In this group, 8% are 8th graders, 12% are 10th graders, and 24% are 12th graders.4, 5, 6

Roughly two-thirds of students tried drinking by the 12th grade.2

It’s illegal for people under 21 years old to drink alcohol. Yet, people aged 12 to 20 years years old are responsible for roughly one-tenth of alcohol consumption in the U.S.2

Out of the estimated 1.4 million adolescents with an illicit drug problem, only 1 in 10 receive substance use treatment. This figure is lower than the 1-in-5 ratio in adults.7

Possible Signs of Adolescent Substance Use

Some signs that might indicate possible alcohol or drug use among adolescents include:3

  • Behavioral changes (like being aggressive, tired, moody, paranoid, or secretive)
  • Frequent changes in friend groups 
  • School problems (like skipping classes and poor grades) 
  • Staying out late
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Physical changes (like bloodshot eyes, unusually large or small pupils, or unexplained bruises on arms)
  • Neglecting hygiene (like not taking a shower, changing clothes, or brushing teeth)
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, prescription drugs, or alcohol

Some symptoms of substance use are also symptoms of mental health conditions or even typical teenage behavior. Only a health professional can give a precise diagnosis of substance use disorder. 

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Updated on November 23, 2023
15 sources cited
Updated on November 23, 2023
  1. Brannigan, Rosalind et al. “The Quality of Highly Regarded Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Programs: Results of an In-depth National Survey.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med vol. 158,9 : 904–909. 
  2. Teen Substance Use & Risks.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). February 10, 2020. 
  3. Drugs and Young People.MedlinePlus.
  4. Alozai, Ubaid ullah, and Sandeep Sharma. “Drug and Alcohol Use.In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. [Updated 2021 Jul 24]. 
  5. Drugs of Abuse | A DEA Resource Guide: 2020 Edition.Drug Enforcement Administration. 2020.  
  6. Monitoring the Future.National Institute on Drug Abuse. December 15, 2021. 
  7. Report From the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse Volume 1: Summary of National Findings.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2002.
  8. Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program. April 2017.
  9. Types of Treatment Programs.National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). January 2018.
  10. Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). August 2018. 
  11. Gray, Heather. “State Laws Related to Involuntary Commitment of Individuals with Substance Use Disorder and Alcoholism - Part 2 of 2.” NAMSDL News. The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL). October 19, 2016.
  12. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2016: Admissions to and Discharges from Publicly Funded Substance Use Treatment.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). August 2018.
  13. Carden, Lucas, and Wendy Wood. “Habit formation and change.Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences vol. 20 : 117-122.
  14. Gossop, M et al. “Treatment retention and 1 year outcomes for residential programmes in England.Drug Alcohol Depend vol. 57,2 : 89-98.
  15. Hopson, Dennis. “Heroin Addiction Treatment: Heroin Addiction Treatment Success Rates, Types of Treatment, and Statistics.” GuideDoc.

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