Parents and Family Resources for Teens in Substance Abuse Recovery

Table of Contents

This Article Discusses the Following Issues:

  • Support resources available for parents and families of teens in recovery
  • How parents and families can help teens stay on the path to recovery
  • Where to find resources and local support groups for parents and families of teens in recovery
  • How to support teens on their recovery journey

Substance abuse among teenagers should be a serious cause of concern for many parents, guardians, and caretakers. It has a detrimental effect on adolescents’ mental and physical health. While seeking treatment is helpful, families should also understand that supporting teens in substance abuse recovery is equally important since recovery requires the right support and resources.

Each family’s situation is unique, so finding the right resources and support that align with your needs and circumstances is important. Working in collaboration with professionals and utilizing the resources can significantly contribute to the success of your teenager’s substance abuse recovery and overall family well-being.

Here, Key Healthcare shares some valuable resources for parents and families of teens in substance abuse recovery to manage the treatment, support new lifestyle changes, manage co-occurring mental health issues, and teen relapse prevention strategies.

Understanding Teen Substance Abuse and Recovery

Dealing with a teen in recovery can be challenging, given the emotional and physical toll it takes on family members. However, it is better to persevere through that than not know about a loved one’s drug problem. Let’s discuss the signs of teen substance abuse and what substance abuse treatment for teens means.

Signs of Teen Substance Abuse

Common drugs teenagers abuse include teen marijuana addiction, cocaine, prescription drugs, spice/K2, heroin, MDMA, and heroin. Look out for the following signs if you suspect that your teenager is abusing any of them:

  • Changes in behavior and mannerisms, such as withdrawal from family and friends, disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, sudden change of social circles, and social isolation
  • Mood changes such as increased irritability
  • Changes in personality, signified by low productivity, poor morale, lack of self-control, apathy, poor interactions with loved ones and teachers, and aggressive behavior
  • Poor classroom performance and behavior
  • Physical changes including bloodshot eyes, poor hygiene, widely dilated pupils, shakes, drowsiness, bruises and unexplained injuries, sudden weight loss, and widely dilated pupils

Substance abuse can also significantly affect teenagers’ mental health, leading to conditions such as teen depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Physical effects include increased risks of certain diseases (such as cancer of the lung), unexplained injuries, and even death.

What is Substance Abuse Treatment for Teens?

Fortunately, teen substance abuse treatment options like teen treatment center, behavioral therapy, family-based treatment approaches, and recovery support services can help your teenage child overcome drug abuse. Their goal is to help teenagers recover from drugs and substance abuse and lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. Most treatment programs last 4-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the case.

Resources for Parents and Families of Teens in Recovery

Available resources for parents and families of teens in recovery include support groups, therapy for teens, and online resources.

Therapy/ Counseling

The best therapy option for parents and families supporting teens in recovery is family therapy, which tries to understand and resolve underlying issues within the family dynamics. It can improve communication and family relationships, help develop healthy boundaries, clarify family roles, increase empathy, and improve conflict resolution skills if done right.

Family members participating in these therapy sessions get to express their feelings, discuss potential solutions, and develop better ways to support each other. The therapist’s role is to help them understand each other’s perspectives and navigate difficult conversations.

National Organizations Offering Resources for Parents of Teens in Recovery

National organizations and networks that offer resources for parents of teens in recovery include the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Locating Support Groups for Families of Teens in Recovery

Here are common support groups for families of teens in recovery:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups – Al-Anon’s worldwide fellowship program helps address common problems faced by families of those dependent on alcohol. It is made up of friends and families of alcoholics.
  • Families Anonymous – Families Anonymous is a 12-step program for families dealing with their teenage drug addiction and related challenges. You can try this option if you are worried your teenage child is returning to former destructive behaviors.
  • Nar-Anon Family Groups – Nar-anon family groups have a 12-step program for those affected by someone’s addiction, such as family members in this case. Nar-Anon family groups offer additional support and encouragement through a structured step-by-step process.
  • Learn to Cope – This peer support network comprises families affected by a member’s drug addiction. Participants regularly attend local face-to-face meetings in places such as Florida, New Jersey, Idaho, and Massachusetts. Additionally, it has several online support forums and resources.
  • GRASP – Fully known as Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, GRASP offers compassion, support, and resources for families who have lost a loved one to addiction or substance abuse. Members can attend face-to-face meetings thanks to its local charters spread across the US.
  • Smart Recovery Family and Friends – Smart Recovery Family and Friends is a good option if you are looking for a secular science-based alternative to alcohol and narcotics anonymous family groups. Family and friends dealing with a loved one’s addiction in certain cities across the United States and Canada can attend face-to-face meetings.

Online Resources for Parents Seeking Information on Teen Substance Abuse and Recovery

Visit for more information about teen substance abuse and recovery. Additional online resources include:

Supporting Teens in Their Recovery Journey

Here are some of the ways families and parents can help their teenagers successfully recover:

Ensuring Commitment and Motivation in Their Recovery Journey

You can help your teenager stay committed and motivated in their recovery journey by engaging them in their treatment program and helping them build a supportive network of peers and mentors. Remember to seek their input, follow up on their treatment and encourage them to be as open as possible with therapists and mental health professionals. Additionally, enroll them in a teen group therapy program and encourage them to attend sessions.

Ways to Encourage and Reinforce Positive Behavior and Progress

Parents can encourage and reinforce positive behavior in recovering teens through the following means:

  • Direct reinforcement- This reinforcement is directly derived from appropriate behavior. Parents can encourage recovering teens to appropriately interact with the right peer groups, helping them stay off drugs.
  • Activity reinforcers- Parents can allow their teenagers to engage in preferred activities if they behave appropriately, which can be a huge motivating factor for appropriate behavior.
  • Expressing approval and praise for positive behavior through comments and physical expressions.
  • Rewarding positive behavior through gifts.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can play a great role in a teenager’s recovery journey.

How Teens Can Adopt Healthier Habits and Activities

Teenagers can adopt healthier habits and activities by hanging out with the right groups of peers, having positive role models, engaging in physical activities, and creating goals. Examples of healthy habits and activities include getting enough sleep, dieting, and exercising.

Role of Nutrition and Exercise in Teen Substance Abuse Recovery

Regular exercise helps improve body image, boost mood, increase energy levels, fight cravings, and lower relapse risks, allowing your teenager to lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life.

On the other hand, observing proper nutrition helps stabilize mood, increase energy, improve focus, and increase resistance to urges or cravings.

Alternative Practices That Can Help in Recovery

Note that we offer all the above at Key Healthcare.

Sourced For Mental Health Support

Common Mental Health Issues that Co-occur With Teen Substance Abuse

Most adolescents with a drug use disorder experience other disorders such as adolescent anxiety disorders, depression, antisocial personality disorder in teens, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Available Therapy and Counseling Options to Address Mental Health Concerns During Teen Substance Abuse Recovery

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – DBT for teens uses emotional regulation, mindfulness, and other techniques to help teens accept themselves and change their behavior.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy – Cognitive Behavior Therapy for teenagers (CBT) makes adolescents better at managing their emotions, behavior, and relationships by helping them identify and change negative thought patterns.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps teenagers accept their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and commit to making changes aligning with their core values.
  • Music Therapy – Teenagers get to express their emotions, relax and focus on positive things. They also learn how to better process their feelings and manage their behavior.
  • Motivational Interviewing – Motivational interviewing allows teenagers to explore different issues (like lack of motivation) and work towards finding solutions. It also helps them understand that they are not alone in their struggles.

Supporting Teen Mental Health During the Recovery Process

A few things parents can do to support the mental health of their teenage children for a good mindset during recovery include:

  • Encouraging them to share their feelings
  • Helping them set up new routines and achievable daily goals
  • Listening to their views and calmly sorting out conflict
  • Being honest and transparent with them
  • Practicing self-care to avoid taking out stress on them
  • Fostering independence by giving them time and space to be on their own

Addressing Stigma and Shame Surrounding Teen Substance Abuse and Recovery

Common Misconceptions About Teen Substance Abuse and Recovery

  • Only spoilt and ‘bad’ kids develop a substance use disorder
  • Teenagers abuse substances for attention
  • Teens who abuse drugs come from liberal parents
  • Teenagers addicted to drugs do not have any future
  • Teenagers who use drugs come from households that lack discipline
  • Teens addicted to drugs lack the willpower
  • Parents should be able to handle teen addiction therapy without seeking professional help

How Parents Can Help Their Teens Feel Supported and Understood During the Recovery Process

  • Maintaining open and effective communication with your teenager
  • Being understanding and patient with them
  • Letting them know that you are available anytime they would like to talk
  • Minimizing criticism
  • Applauding them when whenever they do something right
  • Including them in family activities
  • Showing genuine interest in their recovery
  • Ensuring that they sleep well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep
  • Negotiating role changes during their recovery.

Resources Available for Families Dealing With Teen Addiction Stigma and Shame

Consider the online resources we discussed earlier if your family struggles with shame and stigma occasioned by teen addiction. Alternatively, you can join community support groups for families with people in recovery.

Sufficient Discussion on Relapse Prevention

Dealing With Relapses

A relapse can be defined as a return to drug or alcohol use after a long duration of sobriety. Families need to be prepared for such an occurrence, given that chronic drug use leads to long-lasting structural and functional brain changes.

To decrease the chances of a relapse, teenagers with a drug use disorder should avoid triggers and develop a relapse prevention plan. Parents should not blame or shame them but instead do the following:

  • Address feelings without taking them out on the teenager. You should give yourself some space to process your emotions before speaking with them about the relapse. You can try different ways of coping with strong emotions, such as exercise, journaling, talking to a friend or trusted family member and meditating.
  • Keep healthy boundaries. Love and support them, but also make them understand that you will not support their drug or alcohol use and abuse
  • Engage in self-care instead of focusing all energies on a loved one’s relapse or addiction

Relapse Prevention Strategies Families and Teens Can Use During the Recovery Period

  • Seek knowledge about relapse prevention
  • Look out for signs of emotional relapse such as failure to exercise, poor sleeping patterns, reliving past drug use memories, extreme changes in habits and moods, and withdrawing from families and friends
  • Help the teenager learn relapse prevention and coping skills such as urge surfing, distraction, breathing techniques, and five senses grounding.
  • Help the teenager avoid triggers by keeping them busy
  • Be involved in every step of their recovery journey

How Teens Can Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan with the Help of Their Treatment Team

A relapse prevention plan clearly outlines how to respond to triggers and cravings. It covers emotional, mental, and physical relapse. To develop one, your child needs to do the following with their treatment team:

  • Asses their history with drugs and alcohol
  • Brainstorm scenarios that can lead to potential relapse and have an action plan for each
  • Work on a step-to-step plan of what should happen in case they come close to relapsing or, they unfortunately, relapse

Common Triggers and Warning Signs of Relapse and How Families Can Address Them

Common relapse triggers include stress, easy drug access, social isolation in teens, revisiting negative connections, illness, boredom, and major life transition.

Warning signs include overconfidence, significant changes in attitude and behavior, self-imposed teenage isolation, dishonesty, personal hygiene neglect, and a revival of old connections.

Additionally, try to help them avoid triggers, such as avoiding prescription medicines or alcohol. You can also find an excellent teen rehab aftercare program to help them learn healthy coping skills and habits.

What Resources Are Available for Families Dealing with Teen Relapse During the Recovery Process?

You should consider Nar-Anon and Al-Anon family groups if your teenager relapses.


Helping teens overcome drug addiction is a long and grueling process that can be successfully done with the right resources and support. Therefore, set aside your anger, frustration, self-blame, and disappointment and get involved in your teenage child’s recovery. Additionally, utilize the resources discussed in this article to empower your family, help your child bounce back, and lead a happy, fulfilling, and productive life. Keep your head up, and remember you are not alone in this journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Can Families Help Their Teens Cope With Triggers and Cravings?

Families can help their teens cope with triggers and cravings by:

  • Encouraging them to avoid places, people, and things that can trigger them
  • Keeping them busy with healthy behaviors such as exercising, meditation and relaxation techniques, and support group meetings
  • Reminding them why they wanted to recover in the first place
  • Helping them change the way they think about their triggers and cravings through encouraging and optimistic statements and by reminding them that all cravings end
  • Helping them set future goals
  • Reminding them of the desirable aspects of their lives that would be destroyed if they used drugs again.

What are the Legal Consequences of Teenage Substance Abuse?

Teenagers who use drugs and engage in activities that endanger their lives and that of others attract legal consequences such as fines and jail terms. They also need legal fees when taken to court. The same also applies to those who sell or are found in possession of narcotics.

How Can Teens Find Support If They Are Not Ready to Talk to Their Parents?

Teenagers that are not ready to talk to their parents can approach a trusted relative or school adult, such as their class teacher or school psychologist.

How Can I Help My Teen Rebuild Their Self-Esteem During Recovery?

Addiction normally takes a huge toll on teenagers’ self-esteem. Parents can help them regain their confidence by complimenting them, including them in family activities, enrolling them in a gym, fitness, or meditation center, helping them make changes on their own, encouraging them to forgive themselves, enrolling them for therapy and taking a keen interest in the activities they enjoy. You can also encourage them to go out and make new friends.

How Can I Manage My Own Stress and Emotions as a Parent of a Teen With Substance Abuse Issues?

Managing your own stress and emotions allows you to offer better care to your teenager during their recovery journey. Consider participating in relaxation practices such as meditation and yoga, joining a support group, asking for and accepting help from others when overwhelmed, addressing any addictions you may be struggling with, and caring for your physical health by eating well, exercising, and practicing healthy sleeping hygiene.