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Teen Substance Use Disorder: Choosing a Treatment Program


The program you choose for your teen needs to view substance use as a primary disease and not as a symptom. Your teen needs to have 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 has the following parts.

Treatment for a teen's substance use needs to include a way for your teen to continue their education. If extra work is needed, providing support that will lead to success for the teen will help boost their 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.

Promotion of interests.

The program needs to provide leisure or recreational time when your teen can pursue a hobby or interest. A leisure activity that can be continued 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 counselling need to be part of the program. If your teen has other conditions, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety disorder, treatment for those conditions needs to be started during substance use treatment.

Urine drug screens.

The program needs to 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. Teen programs need to help the teen develop a plan for dealing with cravings, high-risk situations, and relapse.


Returning to substance use (relapse) is common after treatment. An aftercare program that keeps the teen involved and around people who are staying sober (in recovery) helps lower the chance that your teen will relapse. If your teen commits to aftercare, your teen will be less likely to relapse.


The program needs to include group and individual counselling along with support and self-help groups. These groups need to be separate from adult groups. Counselling may include cognitive-behavioural therapy. It can help your teen learn coping skills to prevent future substance use.


Current as of: March 22, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health