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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on September 18, 2023
8 min read

Teen Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol is the most abused substance among teens in the United States. Many teens struggle with alcohol abuse and addiction, which can have serious consequences.

In some instances, teens might require professional treatment. Regardless of proximity, finding a rehab center that caters to youth is worth finding.

Teen Alcohol Use Statistics

According to the NIAAA, in 2019:8

  • About 24.6 percent of youth ages 14 to 15 reported having at least one drink in their lifetime
  • 7.0 million youth ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month
  • 4.2 million youths said they engaged in binge drinking at least once in the past month

The CDC also reports that the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:3

  • 29% drank alcohol
  • 14% binge drank
  • 5% of drivers drove after drinking alcohol
  • 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol

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10 Signs Your Teen Might Need Rehab

Some signs your teen might need rehab include:

1. A Drop in Grades or Academic Performance

Low grades or changes in school performance may be signs that your teen is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Even a slight slip in grades may indicate that your teen needs to attend rehab, especially if they are at risk for mental health problems.

In such cases, your teenager may dedicate more time to drugs and less time to their studies. They may also lose concentration on homework, tests, and grades.

2. Secretive Attitude

If your teen acts secretively or defends unusual behavior, it might indicate drug and/or alcohol use.

This likelihood could especially be actual if your teen is:

  • Locking their door more often
  • Maintaining irregular daily or evening schedules
  • Staying out later than usual with friends
  • Suddenly spending time with new groups of people
  • Avoiding your questions about their activities

Watch for drastic or unexplained shifts in your teen’s schedule, social life, and energy levels. Sometimes more minor, unexplained changes in daily activities can suggest your teen uses drugs or alcohol.

3. Changes in Physical Appearance

If your teen has a drug addiction, their habits might affect their physical appearance.

Physical changes to look out for include:

  • Bloodshot or tired eyes
  • Unexpected weight loss, gain, or fluctuations
  • Unexplained cuts, scars, or wounds
  • Random nosebleeds or runny noses
  • Sweaty or shaking hands
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Talkative or hyperactive periods

4. Shifts in Behavior

You may also notice changes in your teen’s behavior that could indicate substance use habits.

These include:

  • Unexplained changes in favorite activities or hobbies
  • Increase in stress, anxiety, paranoia, or nervousness
  • Reckless driving
  • Missing money, pills, or alcohol
  • Repeated dishonesty

If you notice any of these signs, your teen might need rehab, especially if you see more than one.

5. Major and Sudden Changes in Friends

Another sign to look out for is abrupt and significant shifts in your teen’s social circle. Spending less time with old friends and suddenly hanging out with new people could suggest they’re taking on new and potentially risky behaviors.

6. Missing Classes or Skipping School

Another significant warning sign of substance use is if your teen is missing classes or skipping school. If your teen isn’t in school and spends time with people who are also skipping, there’s a good chance they’re engaging in risky behaviors.

Ask your child’s school to alert you to these absences. This way, you can address the problem at home.

7. Loss of Interest in Favorite Hobbies or Activities

Losing interest in once-favorite hobbies or activities can also suggest trouble.

Quitting sports teams or clubs or stopping favorite hobbies or interests means your teen might be doing different activities, which can include alcohol or drug use.

Additionally, drug and alcohol withdrawal can cause physical side effects that can make your child tired. As such, they may not participate in their everyday activities.7

8. Changes In the Home

Not all signs of drug and alcohol use occur externally. Some happen at home.

For example, finding a hidden stash of drugs or alcohol is typically a sign that something’s wrong. Sometimes, the indicators are more subtle.

Keep an eye out for other unusual changes at home, such as:

  • Unrecognizable containers or wrappers
  • Drug paraphernalia, such as smoking devices, eye drops, lighters, and syringes
  • Unexplained dents in the car
  • Missing prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or alcohol

9. You Have a Substance Use Problem

A parent with a substance use problem is one of the most significant risk factors for teen substance use issues. There’s a genetic component to addiction.

Another reason why substance abuse can influence children is that they learn by watching. They may assume that whatever you do is usual behavior, even if it’s heavy drinking or drug use.

Having drugs and alcohol in the house also enables access. If they are already at risk, they can experiment with drugs and alcohol at a younger age. If you have a substance use problem, it’s best to seek a drug addiction treatment program before trying to help your child.

10. Your Teen Admits to Substance Use on Social Media

Your child may seem unlikely to admit to drinking or drug use on social media. However, never underestimate a teen’s desire to impress their friends. This desire can even manifest through bragging about substance use.

If you suspect your child may have substance use issues, consider looking at their social media activity.

Research-Based Treatment Models for Teens

You can expect professionals to use the following treatment models when treating teens with substance use issues:

Behavioral Therapy

This form of therapy helps teens identify and change unhealthy behaviors. Counselors often use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help teens recognize and manage their triggers. This approach is helpful for teens who struggle with craving and relapse prevention.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a form of counseling designed to help teens become more motivated to change their behaviors. 

Many feel helpless over their drug or alcohol use and cannot stop on their own. MET allows teens to recognize that they can control their lives and change their behaviors.

12-Step Programs

12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, provide a supportive community for teens with substance use disorders. 

Teens can receive guidance and support from peers in recovery. This help can help reduce the risk of relapse and provide long-term sobriety.

Medically-Assisted Treatment

MAT uses medication to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings. Currently, three drugs can treat alcohol use disorder (AUD):

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram

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How to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol Rehab

Many parents who believe their teen may have a problem with drugs or alcohol are unsure how to speak to their child about it.

Consider enlisting the help of a professional to help you speak to your teen about rehab. These professionals can include:

  • Your child’s pediatrician
  • An addiction treatment provider
  • A school counselor

Once you’ve determined your teen has a substance use problem, a medical or drug treatment professional can assess its severity. They will develop an appropriate treatment approach.

There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for drug addiction. What works for one teen may not be suitable for yours.

Key Talking Points

You can build a healthy relationship with your teen and ensure they feel comfortable confiding in you about alcohol.

Do this by:

  • Establishing open communication and a policy of honesty
  • Showing you care about their well-being by spending time with them and taking a genuine interest in their lives
  • Setting clear expectations for behavior with rules
  • Demonstrating an accepting attitude without criticizing or teasing your teen
  • Understanding that your child will likely make mistakes, but your job is to help them avoid those mistakes in the future

It’s also important to discourage drinking and ensure your teen knows underage drinking is unacceptable.

Do this by:

  • Periodically discussing the dangers of alcohol use
  • Responsibly drinking or abstaining from alcohol around your child
  • Supervising parties or requiring adult supervision at all parties
  • Getting to know your child’s friends
  • Encouraging participation in positive activities that do not include alcohol
  • Periodically discussing life and stress
  • Spending quality time with your children and being involved in their favorite activities
  • Being a positive role model
  • Establishing limits that are not overly demanding and restrictive

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Why Do Teens Drink?

Teens drink for many reasons. Most teenagers who engage in underage drinking do so because they:

  • Want to fit in with friends who also engage in drinking
  • Want to rebel, and they do so by drinking
  • Need to cope with academic or social pressure. This is known as self-medicating.
  • Are curious and want excitement, which causes them to seek out new and potentially dangerous situations
  • Expect drinking to be pleasurable because of what they’ve heard from society, family, and peers
  • Are physically able to bounce back faster than most adults after a binge, so hangovers aren’t usually a concern
  • Have mental health issues, including antisocial or aggressive behaviors, depression, or anxiety
  • Are the child of someone with substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Were exposed to media that condones and/or promotes drinking

Risks of Teen Drinking

Even if teens don’t binge drink, they still face a high chance of harm. Teen drinking poses many risks, including:

  • Emergency room visits, usually due to alcohol poisoning
  • Altered brain development
  • Reduced academic performance
  • Risky sex behavior
  • Reduced decision-making ability
  • Fatalities

These are risks associated with all irresponsible drinking behavior. However, teens tend to experience these risks more than adults. 

Teenagers lack life experience. Their bodies and brains are still developing, so peer pressure combined with alcohol consumption creates severe risk.


Alcohol use is a serious problem among teens, and it can lead to addiction and health problems. Fortunately, professional treatments are available for teens with substance use issues.

Exploring professional treatment can help your teen deal with the underlying causes of their alcohol use and develop healthy coping strategies.

Updated on September 18, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on September 18, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Winters et al. “Advances in adolescent substance abuse treatment.” Current Psychiatry Reports, 2011.
  2. Winters et al. “Current advances in the treatment of adolescent drug use.” Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 2014.
  3. “Underage Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Passetti, et al. “Continuing Care for Adolescents in Treatment for Substance Use Disorders.” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2016.
  5. Esposito-Smythers, C., and Goldston, D.B. “Challenges and opportunities in the treatment of adolescents with substance use disorder and suicidal behavior.” Substance abuse, 2008.
  6. Das et al. “Interventions for Adolescent Substance Abuse: An Overview of Systematic Reviews.” The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 2016.
  7. Gupta et al. Withdrawal Syndromes. [Updated 2021 Oct 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
  8. “Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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