Differences In Adult vs Teen Addiction Treatment

Learning how to navigate the world of addiction is difficult both for the individual and their loved ones. This is why the team at Red River Health Center has done their best to provide resources and information that is easy to find and understand.

Adult VS. Teen addiction treatment looks different because of the difference in developmental stages and life experience that the addicted individual has up to that point. Their needs are different, so their care should be, too.

In this article, you’ll learn about the differences between adult and teen addiction treatment and rehabilitation and how it benefits the patients.

Adults VS. Teens in Substance Abuse Treatment

Teens and adults may need different treatment methods in and out of the rehabilitation room. While adults may have different aspirations such as career prospects and fighting through potential divorce, teenagers are more likely to be concerned about their social peers and grades through school.

The more closely treatment can help an individual identify their unique goals and use that motivation to obtain sobriety, the better. Adults and teens often have different motivators because of their differences in life experience and current concerns.

Furthermore, teens are more likely to have undiagnosed mental health issues, or it may become apparent during their struggles with addition because of their changing hormones from adolescence. Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to know about any mental health ailments whether they have sought treatment for it or not.

At Red River Treatment Center, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance, no matter their age, gender, race, or background. For more information about our services or how we handle adult vs teen addiction treatment, give us a call today.

Diagnosing Substance Abuse

There are many signs that can help determine whether your teen is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but medical professionals have a specific way to diagnose substance abuse problems once the issue passes from a one-time experiment to a full-blown addiction. (1)

Teenagers beginning to learn more about the world, right about the time that they are transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. In this moment, they are also learning more autonomy, interacting with different peers, and their hormones are changing to make their world as confusing as possible.

When drugs come into the picture, it can be even more chaotic, especially if they are turning to the substance to self-medicate emotional distress or to engage with new social groups.

Parents often struggle to interpret the behavior of naturally moody teens. But there are classic warning signs that point to drug abuse.

– Forbes

Medical professionals often diagnose an addiction using a specific set of criteria. For the everyday person, however, addiction can be summed up as an inability to stop indulging in a substance despite the known negative effects to the body and mind.

There are different levels of addiction, all the way from a mild addiction where the individual feels like they need the substance to relax or get cravings for the drug, to severe addiction that affects their relationships with others, causes depression-like behaviors around passions and hobbies, and causes severe changes in motivation and drive.

Severe addiction can quickly become debilitating, causing your teen to drop out of school or begin failing classes due to their inability to show up on time or focus on classwork.

Treatment Types and Placement

In the world of addiction rehabilitation, there are multiple types of treatment that you might consider based on the circumstances. Whether you are a teen or adult, different treatment types are meant to accommodate where you are in the stages of addiction.

Inpatient treatment is typically for individuals who are severely addicted to the point that it has affected their social life, reliability in work or school, or ability to function coherently throughout the day. This type of treatment keeps the patient in the rehab facility around the clock with a rigid, structured schedule throughout the day.

The structured routine that the inpatient treatment provides can be a lifeline for many individuals who function best in that sort of environment but are unable to get that kind of structure at home.

Outpatient treatment, however, comes in different levels of treatment intensity, and is best for individuals who are addicted but have not yet become so dependent on their substance that it is affecting their daily life; in this case, teens are still participating in school, and adults still have work or family obligations to attend to.

The goal of outpatient treatment is to allow the individual to engage in regular group activities, become a part of a support group, and see a counselor and psychiatrist, all on a flexible schedule that allows them to maintain their own daily routine.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Aftercare and relapse prevention are important parts of the recovery process whether the patient is an adult or teenager.

When a patient achieves sobriety, they are not simply left alone to navigate life without their substance of choice. The goal of aftercare and relapse prevention is to ensure that they do not fall back into their old habits by engaging in the same stressors or environments that might have triggered the substance abuse in the first place.

This might look like continued medicated treatment, or continued therapy and counseling sessions to monitor their progress in sobriety. Every rehabilitation center does it a little differently, but this step after sobriety is essential for keeping an individual happy in a sober lifestyle.

Where do Most Teens Get Their Alcohol From?

While teenage drinking might conjure up images of your teen with fake ID cards at a liquor store, up to an estimated 75% of teens have access to alcohol and begin drinking without having to pay for the substance. Often, they get alcohol from friends and family at parties, or take it from home liquor cabinets where it is readily accessible.

Adults, on the other hand, do not need any special measures to access alcohol outside of money, as they can purchase it from the local liquor store legally. This is a perfect example of another way that adult vs teen addiction treatment can vary, as a teen’s treatment may also need to include therapy to discuss their addiction to the thrill of sneaking around or stealing. This kind of autonomy, even though it is not an open freedom, can be nearly as addictive as the alcohol.

Why Teen Rehab is Different from Adults

While the motivations of the patient might be different, and this greatly changes how counselors and therapists interact with them on an individual basis, teens will often still enter the same rehab programs as adults unless the facility has a youth-specific treatment program.

The rehabilitation center should do their part to ensure that your teen is placed in the right treatment program for their needs. Individuals enrolled with inpatient services will receive supervised care to ensure that they are always safe, and individuals in an outpatient treatment program will be supervised while they are at the facility.

If you are concerned about the safety of the rehab center or the process for addiction treatment, give our staff at Red River Health Treatment Center a call today to learn more.

Teens Need to Know Caregivers Care

For many teens, the world of adults is filled with people who don’t care about their situation and don’t understand what they are going through. It is a chaotic place in a teenager’s head, and that’s before you add drugs or alcohol into the mix.

Between fluctuating hormones, trying to find their place in the world, and new stressors, teens need a guiding voice to help them overcome their addiction, and sometimes, family and friends are too close to help as much as they’d like to.

At a rehabilitation facility, teens learn that caregivers outside of their family and friend group do care about their circumstances and are willing to help them through tough times. This can be beneficial for any teen looking for good in the world and can even inspire a new career path and passion based on their experience.

Information is Presented Differently

At a rehab facility, information about addiction and recovery might be dispersed differently to a teen vs. adult based on their life experience.

For example, an adult might be most comfortable learning information that uses work life and relationships as an example, but a teen might not have that experience and requires a more down-to-earth example involving school, friends, or childhood.

What to do if You Think Your Teen Needs Drug or Alcohol Addiction Treatment

If you believe your teen needs to seek professional help for their drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to talk to them one-on-one about the problem before ambushing them with a trip to the rehabilitation center. (2)

They may not see their addiction as a problem or know that the secret is out. If they recognize that they have a support group and can talk about their experiences, however, it provides them with a safe space to explore their feelings and conclude that they need help themselves.

In the end, each person has to admit their own addiction and take responsibility for getting the help they need — but with your help — they don’t have to do it alone.

– Huffpost

Addiction is a difficult battle to fight, and the only way that you can win is to ensure that the individual undergoing treatment is motivated to help by their own will.

Involuntary rehabilitation rarely works, and in teens, involuntary visits are a signal that they cannot discuss the problem and they will simply go through the motions to ensure that their family members are happy before learning how to hide their addiction better. Any rehabilitation should be done with the consent of the individual that needs help, first and foremost.

Can You Prevent Addiction?

While you cannot prevent addiction entirely, you can absolutely decrease the risk for addiction by providing a loving and supportive space for your loved one to discuss their experience and feelings without fear.

Many individuals bottle up their feelings when it comes to addiction, believing that others won’t understand how they are feeling, or that they’ll be reprimanded for their actions even if they are actively seeking help.

The truth of the matter is, everyone is susceptible to addiction, no matter the substance. Some people are genetically more pre-disposed to developing certain types of addictions, and others happen to fall into right circumstances that keep them coming back for more. Whether it is illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications, addiction is a part of life.

The one thing that can decrease the risk of addiction or prevent it from getting out of hand is a loving support group that makes it clear they care about the individual’s safety and health, celebrating small steps towards recovery and discussing their journey with them.

Red River Treatment Center:Giving You a Second Chance

Everyone deserves a second chance. Addiction is a difficult disease to combat, for both the patient and those who love them. The most important thing, however, is a loving support system and encouragement towards healing.

That’s where we come in, providing that second chance and the resources to begin recovery in a safe, stable environment.

Red River Treatment Center is dedicated to finding the right path to healing for each patient in our facility. We offer a variety of treatment methods depending on the individual’s needs and current mental health and wellbeing.

Whether you are looking for an inpatient or outpatient treatment – or a mixture of the two – we are happy to accommodate your needs. We help patients recover from drug and alcohol addiction as adolescents and adults alike.

Give us a call today to learn more about our transparent treatment process and caring on-site staff from supervisors to care providers and therapists.


  1. Forbes, In Depth: How to Tell Your Teen is Abusing Drugs, https://www.forbes.com/2009/03/09/teen-drug-abuse-lifestyle-health-teen-drug_slide.html?sh=476247a41fa2
  2. Huffpost, Cries for Help: 10 Signs of Addiction, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cries-for-help-10-signs-o_b_11796030