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Aftercare & Teen Drug Abuse Rehabilitation

It's a common misconception that an addict's work is done after rehab is over. But following up treatment with aftercare programs is crucial to preventing relapse and ensuring long-term success. Help your child maintain their sobriety and get more information on aftercare in your area.


4 min read

What Is Aftercare?

Girlfriends chatting after rehab

Substance addiction is far more complicated and more serious than most teen addicts and their families realize. Sometimes, it requires months or years of hard work to overcome — even after treatment for drug abuse. Aftercare is the term given to recovery methods outside the sphere of structured drug rehabilitation.

Among the thousands of teens who receive professional treatment, the rate of relapse (i.e. returning to drug use) is 40–60%. Up to 35% of those who complete drug rehab will be readmitted within a year. Following a stay in rehab, your teen’s doctors will recommend a rigorous aftercare plan as the best way to prevent relapse.

What Does Aftercare Include?

Rehab aftercare

Aftercare is a broad term. There are many ways to help your teen stay vigilant and continue improving their life while reducing their risk of using. Some forms of aftercare involve professional help and are paid services. Others are complimentary services in your community. Once rehab is complete, work with your son or daughter to create a realistic and healthy aftercare plan. Their doctor can help recommend which choices to make — while in rehab, your teen may even take part in aftercare planning. The more serious your teen’s problem, the more extensive their aftercare plans may be.

Aftercare for your teen might include:

  • Follow-up meetings with the rehab staff
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Tutoring or other academic help
  • Attending local support groups (e.g. Teen Addiction Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Transitional housing (i.e. recovery houses, sober living homes, “halfway houses”)
  • Behavior management courses
  • Skill building
  • Individual or family therapy
  • Medication

Lifestyle changes are extremely important to preventing a potential relapse. Diet, exercise, creative hobbies, school projects and engaging jobs are all positive changes that will benefit them greatly. Make sure to stay involved in your child’s life, and continue to provide them a loving environment at home.

Help them identify problem areas in their old routines and opportunities for improvement. This might mean keeping them from hanging around bad influences. In some cases, you may even consider changing schools to give them a fresh start.

Aftercare options such as medication and therapy are especially recommended in cases of comorbid drug abuse and mental illness — if your teen has a co-occurring disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or ADHD. Mental health problems are present in around half of teen addiction cases. Even if they kick their substance habit, these disorders can linger and threaten their long-term well-being. Left untreated, these mental problems greatly increase the chances of turning to drugs or alcohol later in life. Work closely with your teen’s doctor to ensure that all the bases are covered during aftercare.

How Long Does Aftercare Take?

Aftercare length depends on a number of factors. Different treatment professionals will tell you different things, but the common perception is that you can never be too safe. If your teen’s substance problem was relatively minimal, a short rehab and period of follow-up care may be sufficient. In some cases, though, teens can benefit from aftercare long into their adult life. The few hours invested in a week to remain vigilant are nothing compared to the risks of becoming complacent. According to one study, only one-third of addicts who who are clean for less than a year will remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol. For those who remain sober for 5 years, the chance of relapse is less than 15%.

However long it takes, it’s crucial to begin aftercare immediately after rehab. The highest likelihood of relapse is within the first 90 days following treatment. Triggers that could set off a dormant addiction could be right around the corner. And when recovering addicts slip into their old habits, they often fall hard — they may not be fortunate enough to have another chance at getting clean.

Does My Child Need Rehab?

Young women attending drug rehab aftercare

Treatment is the most effective way to address teen drug and alcohol addiction. If your child is battling substance addiction at any level, now is the time to explore treatment options.

Following rehab, quality aftercare is crucial to your teen’s continued recovery. Note that doctors do not recommend aftercare as an alternative to a holistic treatment program — rather, aftercare is meant to supplement the skills that your child learns in rehab.

Addiction within your family is a heavy burden, but remember that you’re not alone. Call for a free, private discussion about your teen’s situation. Our compassionate addiction professionals can offer as much or as little guidance as you want. It’s time to get your child’s health and life back — begin by calling us.


Questions about life after rehab?

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