Young Adult Drug Rehab


When you reach the point where you realize that the young adult or teen in your family needs help for their substance use, it’s a frightening and overpowering feeling. How do you know they’re addicted? When is it time to look for a formal rehab program for young adults? What if they won’t go? The mind boggles. Let’s address some of these important considerations.


Recognizing Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in Your Young Adult

Changes in Mood or Personality

  • Sullen, withdrawn or depressed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Uncommunicative
  • Hostile
  • Deceitful or secretive
  • Lack of focus
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Hyperactive

Changes in Behavior

  • Changed relationships with family and friends
  • Absenteeism or loss of interest in school or work
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Disappears for long amounts of time
  • Goes out often, breaks curfew
  • Secretive with phone
  • Constantly making excuses
  • Uses mints or gum to cover breath
  • Unusually clumsy, stumbling
  • Periods of sleeplessness or high energy followed by long periods of “catch up” sleep

Changes in Hygiene and Appearance

  • Unusual smells on breath or clothes
  • Messier than normal appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Often has red or flushed cheeks
  • Soot or burns on fingers or lips
  • Needle marks on arms or legs (or long sleeves in warm weather)

Changes in Physical Health

  • Frequently sick
  • Unusually tired
  • Unable to speak, slurred speech, or rapid speech
  • Nosebleeds or runny nose
  • Sores, spots around the mouth
  • Sudden, extreme weight loss or gain
  • Bruises
  • Frequent sweating
  • Seizures and/or vomiting

As a parent or family member of a young adult, you may be wondering when substance use reaches the point that it becomes a medical disorder. Is it the frequency of use or the amount being used? Here are some answers:


What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder, also sometimes referred to as addiction, abuse, or dependence, is diagnosed if certain standards occur within 12 months. Keep in mind that we are talking about illicit drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol These standards as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association include:

DSM-5 Criteria

young adult drug rehab

  1. The substance is frequently used in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  2. There is a constant wish or unsuccessful attempts at cutting down or controlling the use of the substance.
  3. A lot of time is spent to acquire, consume, and recover from substance use.
  4. The occurrence of cravings or a strong desire or urge to use the substance.
  5. Continuing to use the substance despite failure at work, home, or school.
  6. The use of the substance contributes to relationship problems.
  7. Previously important social, occupational or recreational activities are reduced or abandoned due to substance use.
  8. Repeating the use of the substance in situations where it is physically dangerous such as driving while intoxicated.
  9. Continuing to use the substance while knowing that it affects treatment.
  10. Needing more of the substance to achieve the effect you want (tolerance).
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms when not using that can only be relieved by taking more of the substance.

Rehab for Young Adults: Levels of Care

Most of the time, when an adolescent’s use habits and related factors have been professionally evaluated, they will be referred to one of five treatment levels. These levels are arranged on a continuum of intensity and include:

  1. Early intervention services: Educational or brief intervention services.
  2. Outpatient treatment: Young adults usually attend treatment for 6 hours per week dependent on their progress and the treatment plan.
  3. Intensive outpatient: Adolescents attend treatment during the day, up to 20 hours per week. Duration ranges from two months to one year.
  4. Residential/inpatient: Programs that provide treatment services in a residential setting.
  5. Medically managed intensive inpatient: most appropriate for young adults whose medical and emotional problems are so severe that they require 24-hour medical care.

Therapy in Rehab for Young Adults

These days, most adolescent inpatient and outpatient programs use a diverse treatment approach, combining several therapy models in the treatment framework  The most common are:

Family-Based Therapy

This approach looks to reduce the use of drugs and correct the problems behaviors that often go with drug use. This is done by addressing the family risk factors such as poor communication, and problem-solving. This therapy is based on the idea that the family carries the most profound and long-lasting influence on the child and adolescent development.

Individual Therapy

This is a one-on-one therapy between a patient and their therapist.

Group Therapy

When treating adults, both individual and group therapy settings with peers are used. However, studies have shown that group therapy can be risky with a younger age group.

This may be due to some members of the group may have a negative influence over the other members or even steer the discussion toward stories about having fun with drugs. Some research also suggests that the most effective treatments for young adults are those that include one or more family members in the discussion.

Behavioral Therapies

The treatment provider for your family member will probably recommend behavioral counseling. Behavioral treatment (commonly known as “talk therapy”) can help patients: 

  • become involved in the treatment process,
  • change attitudes and behaviors as they relate to substance use,
  • increase healthy life skills, 
  • strengthen the effectiveness of medication

Pointing Your Young Adult Toward Wellness

Family members can help their loved ones and learn methods to support healthier behavior and reduce harm, while still not approving of substance abuse. This includes:

  • Noticing and encouraging any positive changes
  • Helping your young adult take part in healthy alternatives to substance use
  • Setting boundaries
  • Using consequences carefully and appropriately
  • Self-care

Harm Reduction in Rehab for Young Adults

Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, harm reduction strategies are a way to reduce the social and health risks connected to substance abuse. Harm reduction might be a good first step for your loved one to take on the road to wellness.

In our everyday lives, we take part in some form of harm reduction. We wash our hands to lower the risk of diseases and infections. We use seatbelts when driving or wear helmets during sports activities. Likewise, there are things we can do to reduce the risks associated with substance abuse.

  • Everyone is familiar with the recommendation to have a designated sober driver or use public transportation when planning to drink alcohol. So to reduce the potential for overdose, no one should use substances alone. 
  • Risk can be reduced by having an emergency overdose plan. This includes having naloxone available.
  • The use of clean needles and other items, such as bongs, lowers the chance of infection and the spread of diseases.

Any attempt to reduce use or lower the risks associated with substance abuse is a movement in the right direction. It’s probably not what you want for your child, but it’s a start.

Recovery and Relapse

Young Adult Drug Rehab

Almost all young adult drug rehab treatment approaches are based on the abstinence model. Sadly, returning to substance use (relapse) is a rather common occurrence among adolescents. Among young adults treated for substance use problems, whether drugs or alcohol, one-third to one-half are likely to return to some substance use at least once within 12 months following treatment. 

Current studies on adolescent relapse risk are mainly focused on two variables:

  1. Treatment variables: This includes factors pertinent to the adolescent’s treatment experience such as the relationship with the counselor and aftercare attendance. Continuing care, or aftercare, has repeatedly shown to reduce the likelihood of relapse.
  2. Individual variables: Factors that are specific to the individual adolescent. These would include psychiatric comorbidity (having a mental condition at the same time), lack of family involvement, the influence of substance-using peers, and poor coping skills.

The role of this group of treatment and individual factors is that they interact to influence a young adult’s decision-making. Therefore, if too many relapse variables are present, the decision to use drugs or alcohol isn’t confronted and may even be strengthened. But, if there are few or no relapse factors present, decision-making is more likely to steer them to a drug-free life.

Do Support Groups or 12-Step Programs Help?

Even though they aren’t treatment or a substitute for treatment, self-help groups can be a source of support and encouragement during treatment and after. The best-known self-help groups are those associated with the programs Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous. These are all based on the 12-step model. There may be the teen version of these groups, known as Teen-Anon near you.

Most treatment programs encourage patients to take part in these programs during and after formal treatment, as long as they don’t inhibit members from taking medications that are an important part of treatment. They can be especially helpful during recovery. Groups provide a source of support and encouragement to stay in recovery.

You should know that there are support groups for family members of people with substance use disorders. Al-Anon and Alateen can be helpful and a source of self-care for family members. There are also other groups that can provide support. Contacting local hospitals, treatment centers, or faith-based organizations may help you find groups in your area.


How To Find Help

Call us today. 844.684.0795

Contacting professionals for help is the first important step. You can start by taking your child to a medical professional who can screen for signs of drug use and other health conditions. Make sure the doctor is comfortable with screening for drug use with the usual assessment tools and making a referral to a treatment provider. If they aren’t, ask to be referred to another provider who is experienced in these issues.

You might want to contact an addiction specialist directly. There are 3,500 board-certified physicians in the U.S. who specialize in addiction. Also, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder on its website. Through their website, an addiction specialist can help you decide if your teen or young adult should be referred to a treatment center.

Intrepid Detox Provides Help for Addiction

At Intrepid Detox Residential, we understand the struggle of having a SUD. Many of our staff members have made the recovery journey and understand it first-hand. Plus, we can provide treatment levels ranging from detox to aftercare. 

It takes courage to confront addiction in yourself, or a loved one. But it is something that must be done. No journey starts without asking questions and taking that first step. Contact us. You need to talk and we are here to listen and help.

Call us today. 844.684.0795