Alcohol Treatment for Teens

 Alcohol treatment for teens may vary depending on the type of alcohol addiction: social drinking, binge drinking, etc. This article discusses alcohol treatment for teens and what to look for in teen alcohol treatment programs.

Although alcohol use among teens seems to be going down, more than fifty percent of 10th graders and nearly three-quarters of 12th graders had still used alcohol in 2008. Alcohol abuse treatment for teens may mean different things, depending on what the teen’s relationship to alcohol is.

  • Did she or he take a couple of sips, knowing it was illegal, out of defiance? In this case, the alcohol treatment may simply be a symptom: the underlying issue is what the teen is reacting against.
  • Is he or she using alcohol to try to deal with an underlying teen depression? In this situation, it is essential to get treatment for the depression, with alcohol treatment for the teen being given as needed.
  • Or is she or he addicted to alcohol, using it compulsively and uncontrollably? Or having long periods of sobriety, interrupted by binge drinking? In either of these cases, alcohol treatment for teens is a must. This article will address some of the issues involved in seeking alcohol treatment for teens, when alcohol abuse is, in fact, what needs to be treated.

Treatment Basics

Treatment for alcohol abuse may be like treatment for other kinds of substance abuse in many ways. It may be given while the teen continues to live at home, or at a special hospital or residential treatment facility, depending on the severity of the problem.  The categories of treatment are:

  • inpatient
  • residential
  • partial hospitalization
  • outpatient

Depending on the troubled teen’s situation, treatment may involve addressing alcohol only, alcohol and another drug, or treating alcohol abuse concurrently some other disorder, like depression. The treatment may involve other family members, as well as the teen.

Sometimes alcoholics do not want to enter alcohol treatment. Counseling or an alcohol intervention may be helpful in getting to the point where the need for alcohol treatment for the teen is accepted. Once therapy begins, detoxification and withdrawal are the starting point, if necessary. Some medications may help prevent delirium tremens. It is safest to have a medically supervised detoxification to make sure there are no complications.

Prior to alcohol detox, a complete medical assessment is done, checking for medical conditions associated with alcoholism. Mental health assessment is also conducted.

Abstinence is strongly suggested in treatment. Often cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps the client learn ways of coping without alcohol can be helpful. Aversion therapy is one means of creating extremely unpleasant associations with alcohol in the hopes that this can help deter use. There are also medications to reduce cravings.

It is usually considered that even once a person has stopped abusing alcohol, continuing programs and support groups are key to helping prevent relapse. This may be especially true for teens, who may have fewer choices about the people they associate with as long as they live in a particular neighborhood and attend a particular school and take particular classes. Alateen, and similar programs may be helpful for the teen suffering from teenage alcoholism and other family members as well.

Considering Alcohol Treatment for Teens

If the best alcohol treatment choice isn’t immediately obvious and especially if it involves the teen being away from home, it is critical to establish that it is a reputable, accredited program, skilled in dealing with adolescents, and staffed by qualified professionals. Since the range of alcohol treatments ranges from talk therapy to aversion medications, you will want to have a very clear idea - and your child’s input - on how the alcohol treatment plan will progress. Making sure that any other needs that your teen has can be met by the program is also important. For a good list of questions to consider, see “When Your Child Needs Substance Abuse Treatment” at the United Stated Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website here:


What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families

Related Article: Teen Drug Treatment >>