Addiction Treatment Programs for Teens

More teenagers are using illicit drugs than ever before. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, there was a 61% increase in drug use among 8th graders between 2016 and 2020. By the time they are seniors in high school, 62% of students will have tried some form of illicit drug, most often alcohol or marijuana.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15% of high school students will have used cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy and 14% will have used prescription opioids.

Some of these teens get addicted. According to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report’s HealthDay News, on average, 22 teens die from drug overdoses each week in the U.S. Many of these deaths are attributable to the use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Challenges in Finding Drug Rehab Treatment for Teens

Finding treatment for drug addicted teens, especially residential treatment, can be difficult.

Not all drug treatment centers accept teenagers, and many that do have long waiting lists, with the average wait for a bed being close to a month. More for-profit treatment centers than nonprofit centers are likely to have beds available for teens, but the cost is substantially higher. And only about 25% of the residential treatment centers that accept teens can offer them buprenorphine, the one medication for opioid addiction that is approved for use in their age group.

Drug Rehab Designed for Teens

Despite the challenges in regard to cost and availability, there are options for teenage drug treatment, and they have programming that takes into consideration the special needs of that age group. Because the brains of teens have not become fully developed, teens tend to be more impulsive, and often more rebellious, than adults who use drugs. Teens do not respond well to the use of talk therapy alone as a mode of treatment, which is a typical treatment modality in adult programs.

Instead, fun, behavioral, and experiential options that involve social interaction, such as adventure therapies with outdoor activities (ex: hiking, biking, swimming, rock climbing), are more appealing. Therapies that involve movement, such as yoga, dance, and exercise, also appeal to teens. 

Both residential and outpatient teen rehabs often offer these types of treatment. There are also 12-Step programs that focus on teen issues. Many residential programs run for 30 days, 60 days or 90 days, and longer stays are recommended.

Outpatient programs for teens may take place after school or on weekends to accommodate the academic needs of students. But some residential programs offer schooling as part of their treatment program. Family involvement is especially important for teens in rehab, to improve family relationships and communication, that often are disrupted due to drug use. 

Examples of Teen Drug Programs

A wide array of teen drug and alcohol rehab programs exists to align with the client’s specific needs, goals, and interests. Some of the most popular are described below. 

Adult and Teen Challenge

One nationwide drug rehab program that focuses on teens is the Adult and Teen Challenge, that has 215 residential centers in the U.S. and Canada. This residential program is longer than most, with an average residency of 12-18 months. The Teen Challenge program is Christian-focused and uses a Biblical curriculum. It also provides mentoring and life-skills training. 

Wilderness Programs

Wilderness programs are a type of outdoor drug rehab program that is often geared to teen clients. They offer adventure activities, such as team sports and zip line cable rides. Group experiences, such as camping, teach teens cooperation, trust, and personal resilience. In addition to adventure activities, wilderness programs utilize counseling and addiction education, delivered by mental health professionals.

Evolve Treatment Centers

With multiple nationwide locations, Evolve Treatment Centers specialize in treating adolescents ages 12-17 years old. The centers are luxury rehabs, and they offer a residential program with psychiatrists, nurses, counselors, and recovery coaches on site. Amenities at the residential centers include a swimming pool, gym, art therapy, yoga, and sports activities. Evolve Centers also offer partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).

Teen Rehab FAQs

Signs a Teen May Need Addiction Treatment

Here are 6 signs that your teen may need addiction treatment:

  • Drug paraphernalia found in the teen’s bedroom, or other places
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Frequent lying or secrets
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Unusual change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities

How Long are Teen Rehab Programs?

The most common length for teen rehab programs is 30 days. Longer programs that run 60 or 90 days increase the chances of success. For shorter stays, aftercare programs and follow-up care are more important.
Success of Teen Rehab

Studies have consistently shown that longer treatment (90 vs. 30 days) yields better opportunity for success in drug rehab for both teens and adults. Other factors in success are the completion of the entire program, rather than early departure, and the use of aftercare services. Aftercare might include follow-up counseling, participation in a 12-Step program, or attending alumni meetings or events. For teens, aftercare activities that take place in special teen-only support groups, called Alternative Peer Groups (APGs), that focus on fun activities and bonding with friends, add to the potential for long-term success.

How Much Does Teen Rehab Cost vs Adult Programs?

The average cost for residential drug rehab for adults is about $6,000 per month, and the average cost of outpatient rehab is about $5,000 for a 3-month program.1 For teen-specific residential rehab, a typical cost per day is about $878, or more than $26,000 per month. Luxury rehabs and for-profit facilities are more likely to have special programs for teens.


  1. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (2023). Drug Use Among Youth: Facts & Statistics.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2022). High-Risk Substance Use Among Youth.
  3. U.S. News and World Report: HealthDay News (2024). Latest Data Show 22 U.S. Teens Die of Overdoses Each Week.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2022). National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 
  5. Recovery Research Institute (nd). Uncovering the Ingredients of Successful Adolescent Recovery. Accessed 5/15/24 at
  6. Health Affairs (2024). Adolescent Residential Addiction Treatment in the U.S.: Uneven access, Wait Lists, and High Costs.

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